It’s true that technological developments have been putting people out of work for hundreds of years. The major difference in the past is that the new technology has concurrently created jobs, so that while people might have to make a career change, they largely wouldn’t be set aside entirely.
The rise of the automobile eliminated the need for carriage drivers and stable hands, but the automotive industry and dozens of ancillary industries created new jobs at the same time.
AI and robotics are different. They’re changing processes and eliminating jobs but without creating new industries. Rather, they’re changing how existing industries will be staffed. For example, the United States has around three million truck drivers, but when self-driving trucks become the norm, those drivers won’t have a clear job trajectory. Moving from the road to the warehouse might seem like an obvious suggestion, but those warehouses are already staffed and it might not be long until loading and unloading are automated as well.
To tackle these employment concerns, some countries are experimenting with a universal basic income, including Finland that’s currently running a pilot scheme involving 2,000 citizens. However, the details and impact of such a program remain murky for now, as it’s unclear what the long-term effects will be.
What is clear is that a solution needs to be developed and soon, because while old technology is easily set aside, there’s an entire workforce that needs to be considered.