Martin Ford on Accelerating Technology and the Job Market

We’re asking each of the participants in The World Transformed to give us their thoughts on one major coming transformation. Here are Martin Ford’s answers:

If you were to pick just one current or coming transformation that you would advise people to focus on, which one would that be?

The impact of accelerating technology on the job market and overall economy. Automation, robotics and AI are poised to have a significant — and perhaps accelerating — impact in many employment sectors. This could be on top of the already dire unemployment situation we now face. The result is likely to be widespread unemployment, and ever-increasing concentration of income and wealth. It will also undermine the economy by destroying consumder confidence and spending, possibly tipping us into a deflationary spiral.

What should we be doing about it?

Moving toward a basic income scheme funded by more progressive income taxation and also possibilty a consumption tax. Work/job sharing combined with income supplementation would provide a safety net and insure consumer have adequate income to drive the economy.

What’s in it for us if we get it right?

Continued broad-based prosperity, and a vibrant market economy with strong incentives for innovation.

What are the risks if we don’t?

Widespread poverty and diminished prospects for most people. Possible civil unrest, perhaps ultimately threatening our democratic institutions. Weak consumer demand, possibly providing inadequate incentive for investment in the advanced technologies that many futurists contemplate.