Stanford Social Innovation Review
Recently I joined a discussion organized by a group of Japanese university students about making a career out of what you love to do. The students complained that after graduation, people they once looked up to at school became syachiku—a term that ridicules employees who show strong loyalty to a company at the expense of their private lives.
I worried that advice from the invited speakers—all successful adults—might sound condescending rather than encouraging, and make the already pessimistic students even more depressed. But one student’s words got my attention: Soon, artificial intelligence (AI) will replace unskilled and repetitive jobs. “I dream of a future where everyone can do what they really like,” he said, “and where income can rely on social policies such as a universal basic income (UBI) to provide some security.”
While it might be just a dream, there is no doubt that the rapid development of AI and the technologies it enables—including self-driving vehicles, auto-translation tools, and robot waiters—will replace many jobs in the foreseeable future. Indeed, a study by the McKinsey Global Institute concluded that by 2030, intelligent agents and robots could replace as much as 30 percent of the world’s current human labor force. And while widespread worker reskilling and other jobs initiatives may counter some of these developments, the question remains: How will people without jobs survive?
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