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Educating the future workforce

Work ain’t what is used to be, and in the future, it won’t be what it is now. Standardization, mechanization, electrification, and now robotification and computerization have driven constant upheaval. At each stage observers have expressed alarm that worker dislocation will create a social nightmare of unemployment and financial ruin. The changes have been disruptive for many workers as jobs disappeared and skills became obsolete, and many communities suffered long-term decline when their dominant industries withered. But over time the economy adjusted, and new and often better-paying jobs were created. Still, many individuals and communities never recovered. The workforce moved from farm to factory to office to telecommuter. Productivity has increased, wealth has grown, many of the most arduous and dangerous jobs have disappeared, and many new and rewarding careers have thrived. The lesson that many draw is that change can be hard on some individuals, and even lead to significant social and economic disruption, but that it is beneficial to the society in the long-run. We can expect to see some people hurt by current and anticipated changes, but we should have faith that society will adapt to technological progress and that in the end society as a whole will be better off.