A Pew Research Foundation study examining the future of work and job training found a belief among some experts that artificial intelligence and automation threaten not just millions of jobs, but also the future of capitalism.
Released Wednesday, the non-scientific study titled “The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training” is the seventh in an eight-part “Future of the Internet” study being conducted by the Pew Research Center and Elon University. More than 1,400 AI researchers, tech experts, professors, startup CEOs, and members of the general public responded to the survey.
Respondents include leaders from companies like Google and Microsoft and educators from MIT, Harvard, and other universities, as well as a mix of other people interested in AI and the future of work. Tech experts include computer scientists and AI researchers but also people from internet governance groups, futurists, and startup founders.
“People will create the jobs of the future, not simply train for them, and technology is already central,” said a Microsoft principal researcher. “It will undoubtedly play a greater role in the years ahead.”
Not everyone was so optimistic. Several respondents questioned the point of training for a job that won’t exist at all in the future.
“While the first three themes found among the responses to this canvassing were mostly hopeful about advances in education and training for 21st-century jobs, a large share of responses from top experts reflect a significant degree of pessimism for various reasons. Some even say the future of jobs for humans is so baleful that capitalism may fail as an economic system,” the Pew report reads.
The report states that most of the people who commented on capitalism in the survey chose to remain anonymous, but a few put their names to their thoughts.
For example, Mike Warot, a machinist at Allied Gear, said, “We’re going to have to end up with a Basic Income, or revolution.”
Miles Fidelman is a systems architect and policy analyst at the Protocol Technologies Group.
“The trend is pretty clear. We will need less ‘workers’ in the future,” he said. “For a long time, science fiction presented us with visions of a world where machines did all the work and people enjoyed leisure, artistic pursuits, etc. These days, a more dystopian reality is emerging — where a few party, a few more do a lot of work, and growing numbers search for work. We’re going to need a fundamental reshaping of our economy, not training people for jobs that are simply not going to be there.”
Training for jobs of the future
A primary question in the survey was “In the next 10 years, do you think we will see the emergence of new educational and training programs that can successfully train large numbers of workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future?”
About 70 percent of survey participants said they believe education and training programs will successfully prepare people for jobs of the future, but many respondents also believe education will not be sufficient to meet people’s needs within the next decade, as automation and AI are expected to claim more human jobs.
Respondents were also asked things like “What skills will future workers need?” and “Which skills can and cannot be taught online?”
A mid-2015 Pew Research survey found that about two-thirds of U.S. citizens believe that within 50 years robots and automation will do the majority of the work done by humans today, though 80 percent of respondents said they expected their job to exist in the same period of time.
In written responses, survey respondents collectively articulated five major themes and predictions:
- The training ecosystem will evolve, with a mix of innovation in all education formats
- Learners must cultivate 21st century skills, capabilities, and attributes
- New credentialing systems will arise as self-directed learning expands
- Training and learning systems will not meet 21st century needs by 2026
- Jobs? What jobs? Technological forces…
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