Former Green Job Czar and current “Crossfire” co-host Van Jones says “the robots are laughing” at Democrats who want more government and Republicans who want less government. Jones says these politically charged philosophical squabbles won’t stop the coming Age of the Machine. “They are coming to take your job,” Jones warns, “and nobody is doing anything about it.”
Interestingly enough, Jones is onto something.
There’s no doubt that more and more industries are struggling to reduce labor costs. Business executives are coming to grips with the seismic shifts occurring on a global scale in which the recent revolution of artificial intelligence is doing to white collar jobs what robots and technology did to blue collar jobs.
In other words, technology and robots are rapidly replacing skills-based human jobs.
“We ain’t seen nothing yet when it comes to technology’s impact on the labor force,” says “Race Against the Machine” co-author Andrew McAfee. “Just in the past couple years, we’ve seen digital tools display skills and abilities that they never, ever had before. And, that kind of eat deeply into what we human beings do for a living.”
McAfee and his MIT colleague Erik Brynjolfsson argue that the growing emergence of newer, smarter technologies will create winners and losers.
The Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein has more:
The big winners in this new era will be consumers, who will be able to buy a wider range of higher-quality goods and services at lower prices. The other winners will be those who create and finance the new machines or figure out how best to use them to gain competitive advantage. Great wealth will be created in the process.
To illustrate the point, Brynjolfsson and McAfee cite the example of Instagram and Kodak. Instagram is a simple app that has allowed more than 130 million people to share some 16 billion photos. Within 15 months of its founding, Instagram was sold to Facebook — a company with 1 billion users — for $1 billion. It was only a few months later that Kodak, the Instagram of its day, declared bankruptcy. The authors use this little vignette to illustrate two points. The first is to point out that the market value of Facebook/Instagram is now several times the value of Eastman Kodak at its peak, creating, by their calculation, seven billionaires, each of whom has a net worth 10 times greater than George Eastman ever had. Such is the “bounty” of the second machine age.
McAfee and Brynjolfsson contend, as alluded to by Van Jones, that income inequality–the gap between the rich and poor–will “inevitably increase” unless governments and education systems modernize and adapt.
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