The Future is a look at six key forces that will shape the future of humanity, and why they not only hold promise, but also danger.
Al Gore is the former vice president of the United States as well as a prominent environmentalist and author.
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The first major theme to be examined is the new global economy.
Thanks to increasing free trade and advancements in communication and transportation technology, the simple truth is that the world as a whole is rapidly becoming a single integrated economy: Earth Inc.
This development has two major impacts for workers.
First, jobs are being increasingly outsourced to developing countries, where labor costs are cheaper. While this has improved the economic health of those developing countries and grown their middle class, it is also increasing unemployment in the developed world.
Second, jobs are also being lost to robosourcing, when machines and computers take over jobs formerly performed by people. And these machines are increasingly autonomous, so there are no new jobs to be had in supervising them either.
In fact, even service jobs – where one might have considered human employees essential – are being robosourced. For example, bank tellers and travel agents are already being replaced, and soon professional drivers may also face the same fate, given that self-driving cars are being developed.
It is true that outsourcing and robosourcing have created some new jobs as well – for example, in the financial industry, and in fact these new jobs pay very well. But as there’s not enough of them to go around, the high pay merely contributes to the growing gap between the rich and the poor.
As the middle class disappears, there will be fewer affluent customers to buy goods, and this in turn will be bad for the economy as a whole. There are indications of this trend in developed countries already, and eventually the now soaring middle class in developing countries will face the same fate.
The only solution is to redistribute the wealth of the richest few to compensate for the lost income of the people who become unemployed. Unfortunately, so far the rich have been resistant to the idea, and have used their political sway to prevent any government action.