Domestic Disruptors: Technology. The Jobenomics 2018 U.S. Economic Outlook predicts an equal probability (33.3%) for economic improvement, maintaining the status quo or an economic slowdown in 2018. This assessment is based on a detailed analysis of six strategic considerations: Economy, Business, Labor Force, Governance, Domestic Disruptors and International Disruptors. This posting deals with the disruption caused by emerging network and digital technologies. The entire 60-Page Jobenomics 2018 U.S. Economic Outlook report can be downloaded free from the Jobenomics Library.
Jobenomics 2018 U.S. Economic Outlook Matrix
The rapid advancement of network and digital technologies are improving the livelihoods of skilled workers while the unskilled are falling further and further behind.
Emerging Digital Age technologies are widening the digital divide between workers who are technologically adept and those who have not yet adapted. This digital divide causes job polarization where the majority of middle-skilled jobs succumb to lower-skilled lower paying jobs, while the high-skilled few advance economically.
The lack of appropriate skills is the primary reason that 6 million unemployed citizens cannot fill the 6 million open jobs in America. Furthermore, technology-driven job polarization not only produces grave disparities between the skilled and unskilled but also between the full-time workforce and part-time contingent workforce and the rich and poor.
The revolution of emerging Digital Age technologies is called the Network Technology Revolution (NTR) by Jobenomics. The power of today’s NTR cannot be understated. It took centuries to transform society in the Agricultural Age. Industrial Age technology took only decades for its transformational magic to work. Digital Age transformation happens in years.
The Industrial Revolution (IR) transformed America from an agricultural-based society to an industrial-based society. The post-WWII Military Technology Revolution (MTR) underpinned the creation of the economic superpower on the planet. The 1980s Information Technology Revolution (ITR) ushered in an information age of prosperity and international commerce. Today, the Network Technology Revolution (NTR) is reshaping the global economy. Like the IR, MTR, and ITR, the NTR could lead to the creation of millions of U.S. businesses and tens of millions of new American jobs, as well as countless economic and social benefits. Globally, the NTR’s potential is exponentially higher regarding business, employment, and societal transformation.
The NTR is not ITR 2.0. While both are revolutionary, the NTR portends to be significantly more intrusive than its earlier and more benign cousin. ITR tools were designed to assist and enhance humanity’s productivity. NTR agents are designed not only to augment but replace human endeavor. The NTR represents a perfect storm of technologies that emulate human form, attributes, and intelligence.
The power behind the NTR is a “perfect storm” of over three dozen transformative network and digital technologies, systems, processes and services.
“Perfect Storm” Of Transformative Technologies
This perfect storm is revamping existing institutions, businesses, labor forces, economies, and governments; instituting new and different ideas, beliefs, behaviors and cultures; and even changing the very nature of human endeavor and work.
The nascent NTR already has been brilliantly innovative and creatively disruptive. The more creative the NTR becomes, the more destructive it will be. From an American outlook, with the proper focus and leadership, the NTR can create millions of new U.S. small businesses and tens of millions of jobs. Left unattended, unstructured and unplanned, the NTR is likely to render half of the U.S. workforce obsolete over the next several decades.
Jobenomics sees three major U.S. labor force trends occurring today that will have a dramatic effect on America’s future economy and employment,
- More than any other labor force trend, the NTR will create significantly more employment opportunities for the contingent workforce than the traditional workforce.
- New workforce entrants and NTR-savvy digital natives have a substantially different view regarding business conduct and their roles in business.
- Those who cannot adapt will likely depart the U.S. labor force to the growing netherworld of perpetual familial and government assistance.
The NTR will accelerate job polarization between traditional full-time employees and part-time contingency workers. Contingency workers have to cobble together an income from task-oriented work, and part-time jobs. Moreover, many low-wage contingency workers have to supplement their income from government subsidies or seek unreported income opportunities in America’s $2 trillion per year underground economy.
Over half of America’s front-line fast-food workers require public assistance. Workers for America’s biggest employer even need public support. For example, 15% of all Walmart employees are on food stamps. As a response to the recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, Walmart is increasing its starting wage rate for hourly employees in the U.S. to $11 an hour. While this wage increase will help, it will not eliminate the job polarization challenge.
Job polarization is a primary cause for the vanishing American middle-class. Per a U.S. Federal Reserve report, “Over the past three decades, the share of middle-skill jobs in the United States has fallen sharply. Middle-skill jobs are those in which workers primarily perform routine tasks that are procedural and repetitive. The decline in the employment share of middle-skill jobs is largely due to sweeping economic changes, advancement of technology, outsourcing of jobs overseas, and contractions that have occurred in manufacturing. As the share of middle-skill jobs has shrunk, the share of high-skill jobs has grown, and that trend has drawn considerable attention. Less well known is the fact that the share of low-skill jobs has also risen.”
Not only does the NTR have the ability to create 10s of millions of new American jobs, but it also can eliminate 10s of millions of American jobs via automation.
The revolution in digital and network technology is obsoleting workers via automation, artificial intelligence software agents, and AI-enabled smart machines. According to a 2013 University of Oxford study on computer automation “about 47% of total U.S. employment is at risk over the next two decades.” If Oxford’s estimates are correct, out of the 143 million U.S. nonfarm workers, 67 million jobs could be at risk. Obsolescence will impact all workers, including degreed workers, who have either routine manual or routine cognitive skills.
In cooperation with Citi Global Perspectives & Solutions, Oxford University conducted two other studies in 2015 and 2016 that addressed automation and computerization in greater detail.
The February 2015 Oxford/Citi study reaffirmed the earlier study probability that 47% of the U.S. labor force is at high risk of automation. It also assigned the likelihood that 33% of the U.S. workforce is at low risk of automation (namely the jobs that are highly creative and require social and cultural skills) and the remaining 20% at a medium risk of automation. Oxford/Citi cited three primary reasons why today’s digital and network technology revolution is likely to be different from previous technology revolutions:
- The pace of change has accelerated;
- The scope of technological change is increasing, and
- Unlike innovation in the past, the benefits of today’s technological advances are not widely shared—real median wages have fallen behind growth in productivity and inequality has increased.”
The January 2016 Oxford/Citi study took a deep dive into the effects of automation on the rest of the world. As compared to the United States and other developed economies, emerging and developing economies have a much higher rate of low-skilled workers that are more susceptible to automation. Oxford/Citi calculates that “between 2002 and 2012, 33 legacy jobs were lost for every new digital job that was created.”
A 2017 study conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab measured the “expected job impact from automation” on U.S. 380 cities and towns. According to MIT, small cities and towns are more likely to lose jobs to larger urban centers that have an abundance of managerial and technical professions, which are less subject to automation from robotics and artificial intelligence. Large cities also harbor more innovative workers that use cutting-edge technologies.
In conclusion, the rapid advancement of Digital Age technologies is transforming America and the rest of the world at rates unfathomable during the Industrial and Agricultural Ages. Countries that respond rapidly to these transformation technologies will reap the economic bounty.
Standby for the next posting regarding Income & Wages as part of the Domestic Disruptors series (Technology, Income & Wages, Civil Unrest, and Natural Disasters), or download the entire 60-Page Jobenomics 2018 U.S. Economic Outlook at the Jobenomics Library.
About Jobenomics: Jobenomics deals with the economics of business and job creation. The non-partisan Jobenomics National Grassroots Movement’s goal is to facilitate an environment that will create 20 million net new middle-class U.S. jobs within a decade. The Movement has a following of an estimated 20 million people. The Jobenomics website contains numerous books and material on how to mass-produce small business and jobs as well as valuable content on economic and industry trends. For more information see https://jobenomics.com/.