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Dancing with robots: Human skills for computerized work

In this report the authors make a case that the hollowing out of middle-class jobs in America has as much to do with the technology revolution and computerization of tasks as with global pressures like China. In so doing, they predict what the future of work will be in America and what it will take for the middle class to succeed. The collapse of the once substantial middle-class job picture has begun a robust debate among those who argue that it has its roots in policy versus those who argue that it has its roots in structural changes in the economy. The authors delve deeply into structural economic changes brought about by technology. The paper describes the exact kind of work tasks that are now, or will be, automated. The authors argue that the future human labor market will center on three kinds of work: solving unstructured problems; working with new information; and carrying out non-routine manual tasks. The bulk of the rest of the work will be done by computers with some work reserved for low wage workers abroad. The policy challenge goes well beyond calls for more years of education or better access to education. The authors argue, that in order to prepare young people to do the jobs computers cannot do, a re-focus on an education system around one objective is required: giving students the foundational skills in problem-solving and communication that computers don’t have.