One of the major trends, which blends demographic changes with technology advances, is the onward march towards greater automation in our economy. That’s a fancy way of saying, “The robots are coming”. And they are not just that warm, fuzzy image we have of R2D2.
If you step back and look at the deeper picture this trend is really about the replacement of human labor in all kinds of activities from manufacturing to housekeeping. What started in the late 1970’s as ‘office automation’ is now starting to reach massive proportions. This is one of those high probability, high impact trends.
The question is: how will your community respond so it can remain a healthy, vibrant, and agile place to live and work?
So, How Big is This Trend?
Depends on whom you ask. There are a number of reliable sources, but all estimates are based on assumptions of progress on the technology side. The Institute for the Future thinks that any job that pays in the $20–30,000 range is subject to robotization.
We think a reasonable estimate would be 30% of the current US workforce could be replaced by these technologies. And that is not just factory workers as we usually think. It extends into the ‘back office’, the analysts desk, and anything that meets our definition stated above. Admittedly, the tactical economics of this replacement technology are still being debated but we are early on (say a five year window).
So to sum up, the scope of this labor market evolution, hear is a quote from the staid, old line Harvard Business Review:
“Left behind may be as many as 40 million citizens of no economic value in the U.S. alone. The dislocations will be profound.”Read More