This thought provoking article in the The Economist posits that technology could render a large percentage of today’s jobs obsolete.
From driverless cars to clever household gadgets, innovations that already exist could destroy swathes of jobs that have hitherto been untouched. The public sector is one obvious target: it has proved singularly resistant to tech-driven reinvention. But the step change in what computers can do will have a powerful effect on middle-class jobs in the private sector too.
Recent technological innovations are partially responsible for the current inequitable distribution of income, as gains in productivity have been absorbed by the business owners, instead of accruing to the proles.
Over the past three decades, labour’s share of output has shrunk globally from 64% to 59%. Meanwhile, the share of income going to the top 1% in America has risen from around 9% in the 1970s to 22% today. Unemployment is at alarming levels in much of the rich world, and not just for cyclical reasons. In 2000, 65% of working-age Americans were in work; since then the proportion has fallen, during good years as well as bad, to the current level of 59%.
Technological innovation is likely to cause temporary structural dislocations as industry moves to new factors of production. It’s likely to compound our income and wealth distribution problems, unless we take corrective action now, before the swells completely co-opt the government. Pretty soon we’ll be looking like the third world, or one of those dystopian adventure flicks.