Tags


SFU Urban Studies prof Peter Hall passes along this piece by Alice Rivlin, reprinted from the Brookings Institute:

We could soon be living in a world in which driverless vehicles or drones make all deliveries. … The transition to driverless deliveries will be a bonanza for early investors in the winning technologies. A wide range of consumers and businesses will benefit from cheaper, faster, more reliable delivery of things they buy or parts they need. In the end, most Americans stand to benefit from a higher productivity economy. However, in the near term, the consequences could be devastating for delivery drivers and their families and owners of the soon to be old-fashioned vehicles that require drivers. …

Like many lost manufacturing jobs, truck driving requires skill, some special training, hard work, and fortitude, but not much formal education. If you did not go beyond high school, but are a reliable, safe driver—especially if you are willing to work the demanding schedules of long-haul truckers—you can support a family and have decent benefits by driving a truck. …

America’s failure to pay serious attention to those left behind by technological change is arguably responsible for much of the public outrage on both right and left that erupted in the 2016 election. The moral and political consequences of that neglect are evident in tales of former steel mill or assembly line workers flipping burgers for a fraction of their previous wage, worrying about how to pay for health care and whether their children will lose their chance to move into the middle class. …

Actually, displaced drivers are not a particularly difficult challenge if their plight is faced promptly. They have proven work records, are relatively healthy or they could not keep driving, and are not a substantial fraction of the workforce in any one place. The response could include an early retirement option for older truckers for whom learning new skills might not be a viable option, plus a focused education, training and job mentoring program for truckers under, say, age 50, who can direct their energies into new careers. …

If the enthusiasts of smart machines are right, the truck drivers are just a small fraction of the workers soon to be displaced by a new wave of technological advance. Americans will be forced to  face up to the daunting challenge of what we want our society to be like when we no longer have to do hard boring jobs like driving a truck. We have to figure out new ways of developing and adequately rewarding the skills that only humans have, like empathizing, nurturing, motivating, and fostering athletic skills and artistic creativity. That is the particular challenge posed by smart machines. There are no easy answers to this challenge, but focusing on the soon-to-be-displaced truck drivers is a good place to start.