As technology continues to improve, it requires less and less imagination to foresee how robots, computers, and artificial intelligence might drastically improve productivity in many industries—and displace human workers. According to a McKinsey Global Institute report, 60 percent of all occupations comprise tasks that are at least 30 percent automatable. Although automation could improve global productivity growth by as much as 1.4 percent per year, “about half the activities people are paid almost $15 trillion in wages to do in the global economy have the potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology,” the report finds.
But concerns about technology crowding out human labor are longstanding. “Technology is creating both new opportunities and new obligations for us,” US president Lyndon Johnson said in 1964, upon signing a bill to create a National Commission on Technology, Automation, and Economic Progress. “Opportunity for greater productivity and progress; obligation to be sure that no workingman, no family must pay an unjust price for progress.”
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