Will your job be here in a few years?

DAVOS — If robots, AI, nanotechnology, machine learning, and 3D printing are going to be doing all the work, what the heck will human beings do nine to five?

That was the front and center question of a panel I led at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week. Titled, “Putting jobs out of work,” the panel—which I’m happy to report was full—included experts from around the world as we hashed out the nature and future of work.

The topic is actually at the very core of the work, (so to speak) of the World Economic Forum, not just now, but over its 48-year history and likely for years to come. Jobs and work of course are also at the root of so much socio-economic and political change around the world. Trumpism, Brexit and economic nationalism are in part a reaction to the dislocation and anxiety that accompanies this change.

Of course, technology and the digital revolution are the proximate causes of all this. How do individuals and institutions—companies and government—manage this disruption?

First, to get some background I asked Yuval Noah Harari, professor of history at the University of Jerusalem, and author of the highly-regarded book “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” about the history of work.

“For many years, humans didn’t work,” he said. “They survived. Jobs are a modern notion. Anxiety about losing jobs is also nothing new.”

Harari points out that for the past two centuries, people have been predicting that machines were taking over. This time “it might be true,” he says. “Like the guy who cried wolf, eventually the wolf really came.” Meaning that the magnitude of adoption and the sophistication of machines today is such that a huge swath of jobs really is threatened. Indeed, McKinsey estimates that over the next decade or so, one third of all workers in Germany and the U.S. may need to find work in new occupations.

Read the rest at: Germany and America

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