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Surplus Humans ? Should we be scared??

The Bob Pritchard Column 

Karl Fogel, partner at Open Tech Strategies, an open-source technology firm, described the employee-victims of advances in automation as “Surplus humans.” 

“Surplus Humans” is a term that could easily describe the once secure “middle-class” professions, including jobs in the automotive industry, nursing, tax preparing, office administration and law
 
There are many reasons for rising insecurity among the group that suffered from the cost of their children’s daycare, from rent and mortgages and student and health care debt. 

They are also concerned about being put out of work by robots and AI.
 
 
While some people insist that robotization will produce new jobs to offset these losses, it is also understood that the wages of many of these jobs will be far from middle-class, and that pay is the real problem.  

Federal and local governments must try to retain the value of human infrastructure. 
 

So which professions and jobs are vulnerable?

Women are the robot’s prime targets. According to a study published this year from the World Economic Forum, 57% of the 1.4 million U.S. jobs technology will replace by 2026 will be those held by women. They are more likely than men to lose their jobs to automation in the next eight years and also much less likely to find new positions.
 
Putting gender aside, if you work in advertising, public relations, broadcasting, law or financial services, you have a real reason to be very concerned. 

The World Economic Forum in 2016 projected a total loss of 7.1 million jobs by 2020, two-thirds of which may be concentrated in these sectors plus health care.

And if you work as a secretary or an assistant, you are also likely very vulnerable. 

People assume that it’s all miners and truck drivers that are losing jobs, but it’s also the jobs of those who do office work. If you work as a waiter or a cashier, or if you don’t have higher education, the robots are likelier to come for your jobs. 
 
The American Trucking Association warns that driverless vehicles threaten the livelihoods of the 3.5 million professional truck drivers in the United States. As trucker’s pay tends to exceed the national average—potentially $70,000 per year, with overtime, plus medical coverage — truck driving is now a blue-collar job with white-collar pay.
 
Even being in a growth profession doesn’t ensure that your human job is protected. Take nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the demand for nurses will grow by 15% from 2014 to 2024 as the elderly compose a bigger and bigger proportion of the population. Nevertheless, the National Science Foundation is spending nearly $1 million to research a future of robotic nurses who will lift patients and bring them medicine. And elsewhere around the country, hospitals are using algorithms to run their hospital floors.
 
So, what do we do about this?  

Firstly, organizing so worker’s collective voices can be heard by those in charge and by those who rely on those human-led services.  

The second is to rethink automation recognizing that when people lose their jobs, real families get hurt, even if in the abstract other jobs are created.
 
At the end of the day, the truth is that when robots prevail, so many vocations will actually become obsolete. 

The big money will be in making robots, until they can make themselves.
 
A robot walks into a bar, orders a drink, and lays down some cash.
Bartender says, “Hey, we don’t serve robots.”
And the robot says, “Oh, but someday you will.”
Posted on July 6, 2018

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