Trying Not To Be A Surplus Human

Automated check-outs.  Self-driving vehicles.  And those are only the obvious jobs being automated.  Lots of people’s livelihoods are in jeopardy, so many that I’ve discovered a new term — surplus human.

“Are You a ‘Surplus Human’? These Are the Jobs Robots Are Coming After Next” by Alissa Quart is an article that explores this in detail (

Who is at risk?  Current thinking is that women are the most vulnerable.  A study published by the World Economic Forum estimates that 57% of the 1.4 million U.S. jobs technology will “disrupt” by 2026 will be held by women.   Further, these women will be much less likely to find new positions.

The jobs most vulnerable include advertising, public relations, broadcasting, law, financial services, and office work in general.  Notice these are not the career fields, like drivers, miners and cashiers, we tend to fret about now.  And according to a 2017 study from the Institute for Spacial Economic Analysis, those without a higher education are especially at risk in a robotic future.

So what can be done?  Some are predicting many future jobs haven’t even been invented yet (  Certainly no permanent jobs were lost due to the automation of agriculture.  But there are no guarantees.  There’s a real risk these future careers will have lower wages and benefits, as we have already seen in the partial transition from a manufacturing to a service economy.  And this current administration’s highest priority seems to be preserving industries like mining and steel; the heyday of those industries was in the 1950s.  We really need a national plan, because it’s beginning to look like a robotic future — with streets full of surplus humans — is a real possibility.



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