Original article was published by Rami R Abu-Jaber on Artificial Intelligence on Medium
Technology doesn’t replace people.. People replace people
As businesses close due to the COVID-19 pandemic and people take to social media in search of jobs to replace the ones they’ve lost, I’ve had daily reminders of how an economic downturn upended my life. Back in 2008, the global financial crisis cost me and nearly three million others like me our jobs. While fast-tracking through the five stages of grief, I knew that to survive I would need to learn new skills quickly and get some practical experience under my belt one way or another if I was to forge a new career path.
So I deepened my understanding of web development, built some open source projects, and learned video editing and effects as complements to my coding work. Looking back, my first efforts were pretty humble. But the effort is the keyword there, and eventually, I established myself as a video production expert — Almost –
is the digital transformation of our economy truly a blessing?
It’s one thing for an individual to rebound from a personal catastrophe. Getting an entire country back on its feet is more like turning a ship. As the economic recovery took hold and companies began hiring again, some folks prospered while some were left, like I had been, without the skills and experience they needed to compete in a new economy.
I did my part by offering free video lessons-which I still do-and advising people in the midst of career transitions how to create video content. Some parlayed their new skills into new jobs; others sought self-sufficiency via their own YouTube channels. None of them returned to life as they’d known it. Which got me to thinking about the role of technology in the broader economy.
When the pace of technological innovation outstrips our collective ability to develop skills that complement new technologies, is the digital transformation of our economy truly a blessing? Does it even deliver the new capabilities and efficiencies that it promises (and that we’ve come to instinctively believe it does)?
If automation puts a significant chunk of the labor force out of work, what good is an AI-powered marketing platform? How does digital technology help us chase the consumer dollar when technology itself has left the consumer public cash-poor?
The threat is real. Automation has already decimated the manufacturing labor force, and a study by researchers at MIT and Boston University predicts that an additional two million US manufacturing jobs will be lost to robotics in the next five years. Over the next ten years, according to a study by Oxford Analytics, 20 million manufacturing jobs worldwide will be lost to automation.
All told, the World Economic Forum predicts, more than 75 million jobs worldwide will be lost to automation in the next few years.
The same study predicts that 133 million new jobs will emerge due to technological innovation. That may be good news for people preparing to enter the workforce. But those of us who have already built lives around steady work may not be so lucky. It’s easy on paper to switch a tool-and-die maker to a mechatronics technician who oversees the robots who do the work he once did. It’s not so easy for the machinist himself. And it’s even harder when you consider the pay cut of roughly 50% he’ll likely be asked to take for the privilege.
Digital Rehabilitation Centers would unite business’s interest in greater workplace efficiency
Is it really technology’s fault? There is a saying “Guns don’t kill people, People Kill People”. Likewise, Technology doesn’t replace people,, People replace People!
For automation and digital transformation to truly serve society’s interests, workers whose jobs are rendered obsolete by new technologies must be trained to take on new positions that are truly commensurate with those that have been automated. This can be achieved by a network of Digital Rehabilitation Centers funded by industry and overseen by federal and international regulators.
Digital Rehabilitation Centers would unite businesses ’ interest in greater workplace efficiency with its need for new cadres of fully prepared workers. Here’s how I imagine them working.
1. International regulations would commit the developers of primary technological innovations such as AI and robotics to contribute a percentage of their earnings to support a global network of Digital Rehabilitation Centers.
2. Digital Rehabilitation Centers would operate largely independently, training workers in areas recommended by industry and supporting regional recruitment/application networks.
3. Employees whose jobs are terminated would be provided vouchers for training classes at nearby Digital Rehabilitation Centers along with a laptop and subsidized web access if need be, all at their former companies’ expense.
4. Former employees who successfully complete the training required for current positions would be given special consideration when applying for jobs at their former employers.
5. Companies hired to undertake digital transformation projects would need to document the job loss associated with the transformation, and to submit a workforce recovery plan.
6. All digital transformation projects would be required to incorporate coursework on social responsibility.
If you think about it, “A” robot manufacturer can have thousands of experts around the world that can maintain and manage their products giving them leverage over their competitors, it’s a Win-Win situation
Technology can be an agent of efficiency and innovation. We must take special care to ensure that those benefits are conveyed as widely throughout society as possible. Digital Rehabilitation Centers are a necessary bridge from work to work for all employees.
Writer: Rami Abu Jaber Editor Jasmine J