Although we have an avalanche of data and opinion regarding the projected dangers of Climate Change to our nation and planet, the inevitable (indeed, inexorable) advance of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) seems to me to carry almost as great and probably a more immediate threat to our way of life – a potentially destabilizing force that, if appropriate policies to account for its impact are not soon implemented, will seemingly adversely affect the United States and the rest of the developed liberal democratic world the most heavily, precisely because of the combination of their peoples’ higher standards of living, greater expectations, and power of the ballot. Attached below is a link to a Brookings Institute Report issued in January, “Automation and Artificial Intelligence: How machines are affecting people and places.” I suggest that it is worth one’s time to at least read the 10-page Executive Summary. Not surprisingly, the Report indicates that our rural areas and the livelihoods of those of our people performing what it calls “routine” tasks – those involving the most predictable physical and cognitive labors generally requiring the least education – will be the most endangered. The Report projects that in the “near future,” 55% of roles requiring less than a bachelor’s degree are vulnerable, and that in the coming decades, more than 40% of all jobs in all states will be subject to “automation risk,” with some states (including my state of Wisconsin) having perhaps 47% or more of their jobs facing such risk.
Immediately below is a link to a video published by South Bend Mayor (and rising Democratic Presidential candidate) Pete Buttigieg (some who read these pages may recall it; I added it to an earlier post on Democratic presidential candidates in a passing reference to Mr. Buttigieg’s candidacy – which I then thought would be my only reference to Mr. Buttigieg’s candidacy). This note is not about Mr. Buttigieg; the video is offered because it may provide a useful verbal illustration of the issues raised in the Brookings Report.
I admit that I am concerned that we already face an uphill battle in developing programs to address our approaching automation risks, and about the prospects of what could be millions of our people who are unable, or perhaps unwilling, to sufficiently adapt.