The question of how to design a future in which humans are no longer a majority of the workforce has long been debated in America, with both conservatives and liberals insisting that technology is our only salvation.
But what if that future, and the way that it might develop, is also fraught with peril?
That’s what a new report from the American Enterprise Institute and the New America Foundation shows.
The report, titled “The Future of Human Workforce Is Depressing: How Technology Will Impact the Future of American Workforce” is part of a series of essays, reports and analyses by the two organizations exploring the potential for technology to undermine the traditional way of life and, ultimately, our democracy.
The report’s author, American Enterprise Council senior fellow Jonathan Chaplin, told Newsweek the report is not intended to be a comprehensive indictment of technology, but to highlight what he sees as important trends and questions.
“Technology is not the problem, it’s the solution,” he said.
“This is a conversation that is being led by the people and institutions that are most affected by it.”
The future of workFor Chaplin and his co-authors, the future of human work is increasingly uncertain.
“The future is uncertain, with new jobs disappearing faster than people think and employers taking more drastic action to protect themselves,” the report states.
“Employers are cutting corners to save money.
Some are reducing hours, moving employees out of their homes and moving to new locations.”
Chaplin notes that, even in the best-case scenario, many of the same jobs that once provided decent pay are now in jeopardy of disappearing altogether.
“For example, the share of full-time jobs that are held by women has dropped by over 40 percent over the past decade,” the authors state.
And in recent years, technology companies like Apple and Amazon have sought to “solve” the problem by reducing the number of jobs that require technology skills and by cutting wages.
In addition to the concerns about job loss, the report notes that the decline of traditional middle-class jobs is a real threat to the viability of the American middle class.
The authors warn that automation could lead to an increase in low-wage jobs and an erosion of the traditional “middle class” and its income base.
“If technology takes over all the jobs, the American economy will be headed toward a tipping point,” the paper states.
Chaplin, whose group focuses on technology and innovation, said the report does not take a partisan stance on the future, but focuses instead on the trends that could undermine the middle class and the future that it represents.
The trend in particular that he most closely examines is the automation of repetitive tasks, he said, including cleaning, cooking and even driving.
He also notes that some companies are creating new types of jobs for “automation-first” people like Uber drivers, as well as others that rely on human labor.
“In the coming decades, it will be the nature of work that is in doubt,” he told Newsweek.
“People will not be doing repetitive tasks anymore.
We are going to have a job of super-intelligent robots.”
For some Americans, however, the outlook for the future is grim.
“A lot of people are just not ready for a new, technology-driven economy,” Chaplin told Newsweek, and “people who are not working, they are afraid of their future.”