This year I join Cognizant's think tank, The Center for the Future of Work, as a research analyst. I'll spend half the year researching and writing a white paper on job displacement due to self-driving vehicles and the rest of the year promoting it. So, stick around for more content related to my research specifically and general futurology impacting society. Below is a manifesto I wrote regarding my work with the Center:
Central to my approach to all business problems is the humanistic impact of decisions or strategies. Businesses create value by serving people for profit, so I never lose sight of that arrangement in my work as a consultant. Dialogue around proliferation of AI, automation, and other technologies often centers on productivity and revenue gains but my interest is in the impact these changes have on real people at the individual and societal levels.
In chapter 3 of "What to Do When Machines Do Everything" titled "There Will be Blood," the authors posit that 12% of jobs will be eliminated, 75% of jobs will be enhanced or protected, and 13% net new jobs will be created in the next decade. For my research with the Center for the Future of Work, I plan to undertake a study of the Twelve Percent. Who are these workers? What work do they currently do? What will they do once their jobs no longer exist? What will be the ripple effects on society, culture, and politics as the lives of these Twelve Percent undergo immense upheaval?
With the rapid proliferation of autonomous vehicles, truck drivers are an easily recognizable face of that Twelve Percent. There are 3.5 million truck drivers employed in the United States, making up 2.22% of the workforce. Not only do they make sure your Prime deliveries show up in 48 hours or less, these folks prop up countless local economies as diner patrons, gas station customers, and hotel guests across the country.
Advancements in humanity are never evenly distributed to benefit all. There are clear cut winners and losers in all instances. History is often written by the winners, but what happens to those that were not able to take advantage of new technologies or opportunities brought about by technological change?
Research for this endeavor will include retrospective analysis of previous industrial revolutions and technological advancements in history to assess the impact of changes on marginalized people and those from lower socio-economic classes or castes. Present day job training and deployment programs will also be assessed in attempt to understand readiness for this shift in the coming years.
I hypothesize that this group of Twelve Percenters will be a loud minority united by shared displacement. With little or no work to occupy their time, they will have an outsized impact on art & culture, using various media to express their experiences. This group will use that cultural relevance as a bullhorn to the political arena similar to the Arab Spring, Tea Party, and Black Lives Matter movements.
As such, I expect this work to have relevance to government entities, business leaders, and individuals in the workforce as all those groups brace for widespread change in our relationship with work during the fourth Industrial Revolution. I'm excited about the work ahead and look forward to contributing to the dialogue surrounding solutions for the challenges to come in the age of automation.
-Desmond Dickerson, Futurist