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What do you do when a computer takes over your job?

In a previous column (Living in a Virtual World) I described how Watson, a computer developed by IBM is the precursor for wide spread unemployment for millions of people whose jobs can easily be outsourced to a machine.  In the MIT Technology Review, Antonio Regalado asks Andrew McAfee about how advances in computing and artificial intelligence could create a more unequal society.

He notes that:

if you are a “routine cognitive worker” following instructions or doing a structured mental task, you have been under a lot of downward wage pressure for a while now. Payroll clerks, travel agents—we don’t have as many of them as we used to. 

This could lead to imbalances in society where:

The spread between the haves and the have-nots continues to grow, and more importantly, the absolute standard of living of the people at the middle and the bottom goes down.

Some people have an optimistic view:

Erik Brynjolfsson came up with a great phrase: “digital Athens.” The Athenian citizens had lives of leisure; they got to participate in democracy and create art. That was largely because they had slaves to do the work. Okay, I don’t want human slaves, but in a very, very automated and digitally productive economy you don’t need to work as much, as hard, with as many people, to get the fruits of the economy. So the optimistic version is that we finally have more hours in our week freed up from toil and drudgery.

A view which neither he, nor History, Future. Now. share.  This website is concerned about where jobs are going to come from in the future, if farming, manufacturing and the service sector become increasingly un-manned.

His advice to parents concerned for their kids is:

Make sure your kid’s education is geared toward things that machines appear not to be very good at. Computers are still lousy at programming computers. Computers are still bad at figuring out what questions need to be answered. I would encourage every kid these days to buckle down and do a double major, one in the liberal arts and one in the college of sciences.

To read the entire article click here:  When Machines Do Your Job – Technology Review.


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