Unfortunately, the majority of jobs that are not at risk are some of the lowest-paying jobs in the US. For Personal Care and Service Occupations, for example, the median annual wage is just $27,270 as of May 2017 based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics . This category includes occupations like barbers and hairdressers, concierges, childcare workers and personal care aides. What about teachers? There are plenty of news headlines suggesting that widespread adoption of AI will lead to teachers focusing more on individual learning outcomes. However, the US is currently undergoing a historic shortage of teachers. The non-profit Learning Policy Institute reported a 35% drop in people studying to be teachers between 2009 and 2014 . Teacher salary data is inconsistent and differs by state but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports mean annual salary of $58,780 for over 4 million people in the Preschool, Primary, Secondary, and Special Education School Teachers category.
Another problem is the perception of social and personal care work in our society. During the third industrial revolution, the digitization of society, the US continued to lose mostly blue-collar jobs. Historically, these were predominantly male jobs. The occupation predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics to decline the most from 2016 to 2026 is locomotive firers, shrinking 79 percent. It is 96 percent male . At the same time, employment in the health care & social assistance sector is projected to grow faster than any other sector. This sector also has 8 of the 20 fastest growing industries across the economy . Cutting to the core of Donald Trump’s core support base, men do not want these jobs, because of the social stigma and the economics of the so-called pink-collar jobs. For example, the median annual wage for a locomotive firer in 2017 was $60,360 compared to $27,270 for Personal Care and Service Occupations.
Limiting corporate power in American society is crucial to addressing large scale issues, be it AI-driven changes to the labor market or global warming. Whether it’s the Green New Deal or the Universal Basic Income, or some other proposal, addressing these generational challenges will require substantial funding. Increasing taxes on the wealthy is getting increasingly popular among the 2020 Democratic candidates and the general public. Some polls show that 74 percent of Americans, including 65 percent of Republicans, support a tax on the wealth of the country’s richest individuals. But individual income taxes already account for 48% of the US federal revenue . In 2015, American taxpayers reported $10.14 trillion in adjusted gross income . At the same time, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows total seasonally adjusted corporate profits before tax at $8.6 trillion for the last four quarters ending in Q3 2018. While making 83% of the income of the American taxpayers, corporate income tax accounted for just 9% of the US federal revenue. This imbalance is counterintuitive. Corporate America has the most financial capacity to facilitate the necessary changes to our economy and society. Limiting its power will allow the government to develop a new economic model, refocusing it on supporting the individual members of the society.
We benefited tremendously from the first two industrial revolutions. We muddled through the third one, going back just as much as we surged forward. Our economies have grown, elevating global standards of living. We nearly extinguished global wars, reduced famine and improved life expectancy throughout the world. But within countries, societies are fractured and polarized, with clear winners and those who have been left behind. Every year, we leave ever more people behind as we shatter norms and structures we used to rely on. All in the name of technological advancements and the “blitzscaling” mantra of Silicon Valley, built on the premise of moving fast and breaking things. Industry 4.0, this age of “cyber-physical systems”, is only going to accelerate the deterioration of the social fabric. We can no longer keep up with the pace of change, fueled by cheap money and non-existent hardware barriers. While the status quo is cancerous, potentially fatal, we should always have hope. After all, this is a systems design problem we can solve. But we have to move fast. In the next few years, AI will not disrupt our human relationships and the nature of being human itself. But it is coming for our jobs and our livelihoods. We need a new narrative of societal and corporate values, coupled with a revised economic structure. And any economic structure, just as any societal structure, should be built around jobs.