Forget foreign scapegoats. Tech innovation is what’s killing jobs. And the revolt after Trump will resemble the real Luddite movement.
The tech industry played an influential role in the outcome of the US Presidential election. Not just in providing the medium for fake news and propaganda. The root cause is job destruction by automation , which drove a base of dissatisfied Rust Belt voters to support Trump. Job destruction is accelerating — and if tech doesn’t get ahead of this problem there will be a significant populist backlash against the industry and its ability to progress.
This post was inspired by Bianca Al-Shamari, who is writing an article on job automation and the impact on future generations.
Job Automation Opinion Excerpts:
A recent study found 50% of occupations today will be gone by 2020, and a 2013 Oxford study forecasted that 47% of jobs will be automated by 2034. A Ball State study found that only 13% of manufacturing job losses were due to trade, the rest from automation. A McKinsey study suggests 45% of knowledge work activity can be automated.
The canary in the coal mine is trucking. Truck driver is the No. 1 job in the US of A. Driving a truck is a respectable job that pays well enough to provide for a family without a lot of education. It’s in trouble. The autonomous Uber Freight is taking orders, powered by Otto. Uber’s $680M acquisition of Otto’s 91 employees equals an effective valuation of $7.5M per employee. Or you could say $200 per US trucking job killed.
Being a Luddite in modern terms has been broadly defined as “people not adopting technology.” Like people that didn’t “get blogging.” But the term comes from the people who destroyed labor-saving devices in the British textile industry during the industrial revolution. They acted on orders from a mythical general Ned Ludd to rebel against the technology that was destroying their jobs.
Followup from Contributor
Yesterday I posted The Coming Tech Backlash, on how my industry is due for a reckoning with the job destruction caused by automation. The key question people asked, and hopefully of themselves, is what can I do about it? As a small startup founding CEO, here’s my answer.
I signed an entrepreneur pledge to safeguard civil liberties and advance new economy jobs.
I’m leaning my product towards augmentation and job creation. And supporting emerging communities. These points are admittedly self-serving, but are therefore sustainable.
- Pingpad is already collaboration software that augments the abilities of teams. We fall on the side of Augmentation from the Doug Engelbart lineage in the Automation vs. Augmentation debate.
- There are hundreds of use cases for a bot-augmented wiki knowledge base. We are prioritizing those that drive job creation — customer success. Focusing on how Customer Success Teams can onboard new customers faster, resolve customer issues faster and ultimately drive more revenue through people working together. This enables customers to grow and create more jobs.
- Pingpad is free for up to 100 Notes, ample enough not just for many business use cases, but great for communities organizing on Slack.
I’m also looking for opportunities to advance education for the disaffected. My particular interest is enabling junior colleges (I went to Foothill and gave a commencement speech there), which are best positioned to solve these problems, but need resources, technology and knowledge.
I’m going to keep bringing attention to the issue within the industry. And I’m looking for even better ideas that require a range of resources.