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In the near future, the confluence of automation, artificial intelligence and outsourcing may render a significant portion of the American workforce – Economically Obsolete.

THE AGE OF THE OBSOLETE

John Rovito

Obsolescence is defined as the process of becoming outdated or no longer useful.  When we think of being obsolete, what we think of is old technology, rusted machinery, cars that no longer run.   Things.

But is it possible for people to also become obsolete?

For most, the American Dream has meant that each generation would rise -- both socially and economically – beyond the one that preceded it. When people thought of the future, what they thought of was “more of the same - only better.”

Unfortunately, that dream is in danger of dying.

It’s estimated that over the next two decades, the confluence of artificial intelligence, automation and offshoring may result in the elimination of 47% of the jobs that exist in the U.S. today. Not simply low-wage, low skilled jobs, but also white-collar jobs in the financial, legal and healthcare professions.

 

Previously, the cyclical process known as structural unemployment meant that the destruction of jobs would be balanced by the creation of new jobs that would take their place.  While it is true that the advent of new technologies will create new and challenging jobs, most economists agree that these will be far less and require far fewer people.

When you consider that at its worst, the Great Depression of the 1930's displaced approximately 25% of the American workforce, it's easy to see why the coming disruption can have catastrophic consequences -- not only economically but also socially, psychologically and politically.

 

That is why economists, social scientists and policy makers around the world have begun to search for ways to offset the damages caused by technological unemployment.  A key part of the discussion is the concept of a “Universal Basic Income” –  a guaranteed paycheck for those no longer able to find work.

 

It’s an idea grounded in the fact that in the near future, a significant portion of the population may become –

 

Economically Obsolete.