How Governments, Businesses, and Individuals Can Survive the Age of Automation

The Age of Automation has Arrived

Let’s face it! The Age of Automation is arriving if not already arrived and this has huge implications for governments, businesses, and individuals. Indeed, in a manner similar to the Industrial Revolution in the Nineteenth and the Twentieth century’s, the Twenty-First Century is already witnessing massive disruption due to the automation of manufacturing processes and replacement of even service sector employees by Robots and Automated software.

This means widespread job losses including those who were hitherto untouched like the white collar and premium skilled professions such as Doctors, Lawyers, Consultants, and other skilled professionals.

Disruption and Dislocation can lead to Anger

Faced with the prospect of massive dislocation to workers and the loss of jobs, Western governments in recent years have come up with a host of policies aimed at helping those who have been left behind due to the waves of automation.

While some European countries are experimenting with concepts such as Universal Basic Income that guarantee all citizens of a minimum wage and income so that their basic needs are met, other countries such as the United States have been hit with the surge of populism as can be seen in the election of Donald Trump who has vowed to Make America Great Again by bringing back the manufacturing jobs lost due to outsourcing and automation.

Indeed, whether it is Brexit that led to the majority people in the United Kingdom voting to leave the European Union or the election of right wing nationalists in other European Countries or the election of Trump, these trends are indicators of public anger over joblessness and rising discontent with the status quo wherein the “rich keep getting richer and the poor getting poorer”.

Thus, governments worldwide can pay heed to these warnings and consequently, ensure that automation does not compound the already worsening situation and take appropriate steps to ensure that their citizens are compensated for job losses and other manifestations of the age of automation.

How Businesses can work together with Governments

Similarly, businesses must do their bit to help individuals cope with the Disruption and Dislocation due to automation by offering those workers who are laid off with facilities and support for finding alternative jobs.

They can also ensure that workers who have lost their jobs to automation are retrained by imparting higher value adding skills as well as by making sure that these workers are compensated in other jobs that have not yet been automated.

In other words, businesses must not shun their responsibilities towards the underprivileged and hence, must ensure that job seekers and workers are given as much assistance as possible.

The reason why governments and businesses must work together in this especially critical time in the evolution of Humanity is that the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution is unlike any other Disruption or Dislocation.

In other words, while the workers who were rendered jobless during the First Industrial Revolution like the weavers who were absorbed by the factories, and the blue collar workers who were rendered jobless due to the emergence of service sector were absorbed in other jobs, the emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution has the power to make the jobless permanently unemployed since even the alternative careers that they can work in would be disrupted.

Consequences of Doing Nothing

This means that there would be massive social unrest in case governments and businesses not take steps to help those who have been affected. Indeed, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is like a ‘double whammy’ on workers who would see their jobs disappear and at the same time, would also see their personal lives disrupted with rising costs of living and declining wages doubling down on them.

In other words, the combination of economic stagnation and automation-induced joblessness is a potent and deadly cocktail that just needs a minor spark to explode.

Some Measures and Policies that can be Implemented

Some of the measures and policies that governments and businesses can apply would be to make it easier for individuals to engage and undertake in lifelong education. This would mean that governments lower the entry barriers to universities and make retraining cost efficient and affordable.

Further, they can work with businesses to ensure that universities and colleges set up trusts and funds to help those who need higher education without them reeling under student debt and the like.

In addition, governments and businesses must ensure some form of benefits to workers wherein healthcare and social security benefits are not taken away from the workers once they leave employment and instead, some form of assistance be provided.

While this can be reduced in amount, the operative term here is lifelong support such as Universal Basic Income, access to healthcare and old age and later age pensions from social security. Indeed, it is in the interests of the governments and businesses to implement these measures if they desire social harmony and want to prevent social unrest.

Individual Effort is needed too

Lastly, workers too must be willing to make sacrificed in terms of time and effort to retrain themselves and just because the government is subsidizing their lifestyles, they must not fall into the “dependency trap” wherein they expect everything without putting in the effort.

The current state of the economy is such that only the smartest and the fittest (in all meanings of the word) survive and this race for survival must keep them on their toes instead of them giving way to despair and lapsing into depression. Thus, it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to ensure that they work together to manage the Age of Automation.

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