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On the back of two major speeches and papers by leading economists 3 solutions are outlined to head off the threat of being displaced as a result of advances in robotics and automation.

Larry Summers recently wrote: “Looking to the future, my guess is that the main story connecting capital accumulation and inequality will not be Piketty’s tale of amassing fortunes. It will be the devastating consequences of robots, 3-D printing, artificial intelligence, and the like for those who perform routine tasks. Already there are more American men on disability insurance than doing production work in manufacturing. And the trends are all in the wrong direction, particularly for the less skilled, as the capacity of capital embodying artificial intelligence to replace white-collar as well as blue-collar work will increase rapidly in the years ahead. 

One of Larry Summers Harvard colleagues, the economist Professor Richard Freeman, a leading labor economist who also directs the National Bureau of Economic Research, presented a paper in early May with the title: Who owns the robots rules the world.

Solutions:

  1. Seek opportunities where capital will also provide an income. Citing the fact that CEO’s and executives receive a large portion of payment in equity, Freeman offers the following solution: “There is only one solution to the challenge posed by computerizing skill through machines. That is for you, me, all of us to have a substantial ownership stake in the robot machines that will compete with us for our jobs and be the vehicle for capital’s share of production. We must earn a substantial part of our incomes from capital ownership rather than from working.”
  1. At a recent conference on AI/Robotics and Employability, executives from IBM proposed people need to develop T Shaped Skills – “Occupations that will see an increase in demand are so-called T-shaped (requiring both depth and breadth) with deep expertise and complex communications skills.”
  1. Social Jobs, improving humanity – The so called Not for Profit sector, many corporations and owners of the wealth are increasingly building their philanthropic arms to help diverse sectors of the population – people with skills in these sectors will likely increasingly benefit as more and more wealth streams into this $2.3 trillion sector. (This was also to a large extent the proposed solution of Jeremy Rifkin’s 1995 bestseller The End of Work).
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