Thanks to the efficiency of the internet and automated systems, productivity and GDP have grown during the last few decades, but the middle class and jobs are disappearing. In fact, we have reached a tipping point where technology is now destroying more jobs than it creates.
Suddenly, it seems, people in all walks of life are becoming very concerned about advancing automation. And they should be: Unless we find as many tasks to give humans as we find to take away from them, all the social and psychological ills of joblessness will grow, from economic recession to youth unemployment to individual crises of identity. That’s especially true now that automation is coming to knowledge work, in the form of artificial intelligence. Knowledge work—which we’ll define loosely as work that is more mental than manual, involves consequential decision making, and has traditionally required a college education—accounts for a large proportion of jobs in today’s mature economies. It is the high ground to which humanity has retreated as machines have taken over less cognitively challenging work. But in the very foreseeable future, as the Gartner analyst Nigel Rayner says, “many of the things executives do today will be automated.”
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