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How advances in automation will change the future of work

August 28, 2016
We call it automation. And while you likely won’t hear this spoken aloud amid all the semi-factual rhetoric of an election season, most experts say that many more jobs have been lost in the last 25 years to automation than to trade policy.

And it’s not likely to stop. Speakers at the World Economic Forum this year said about seven million jobs will be lost and two million gained by the year 2020 as a result of technological change in the 15 major developed and emerging economies.

So, does the future of work look grim?

“It depends on what we’re trying to solve for,” says James Manyika, a senior partner at McKinsey & Company and a director of the McKinsey Global Institute in San Francisco.

“On the one hand, if we’re trying to solve for work — meaning, are there things for people to do? — I think there will be plenty of things for people to do,” Manyika says. “But if we’re trying to solve for incomes and standards of living and so forth, that becomes much more problematic. We may have to think about: When much of the work driving output in the economy is being done by machines, what do wage models look like in that world? And that’s a big question.”

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