The Future of Work Book Summary - The Future of Work Book explained in key points
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The Future of Work summary

Darrell M. West

Robots, AI, and Automation

3.9 (169 ratings)
20 mins
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    The Future of Work
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    Automation is already displacing workers as we transition to a digital economy.

    Back at the turn of the twentieth century, the United States underwent what the author refers to as a “megachange” as a result of the nation’s shift from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. It took decades for the government to deal with the effects of this change and for things to settle down.

    Now, we are at the brink of another megachange, and this time, the nation will be shifting from an industrial economy to a digital one.

    At the heart of this change is a new business model built around automated robots and artificial intelligence (AI). And we’re already starting to see it emerge, especially around blue-collar jobs.

    Some of the most reliable jobs for people who didn’t or weren’t able to go to college have been in restaurants, retail or in transportation – and these are now being affected by automation.

    Restaurants across the United States are replacing waitstaff with tablets that make recommendations and explain the menu. An increasing number of retail stores are replacing cashiers with self-checkout options that are getting more advanced. Amazon has a chain of retail stores where customers will soon be able to use an app to have purchases charged to their Amazon account.

    Meanwhile, at an average income of $43,590 a year, driving a truck has long been one of the more lucrative jobs for someone with a high school education. But now, automated vehicles are expected to become an industry standard.

    In all of these cases, automated services offer a way for businesses to save money. Not long ago, robots and automated services cost more than it would cost to pay an employee for the same job. But this is no longer the case. At Dynamic, a manufacturer of metal parts, a robot can perform the same job of four people for the one-time cost of $35,000. Plus, it doesn’t catch colds, need breaks or health insurance.

    Another noteworthy factor is the reduction in human error. At the cell phone manufacturing company, Precision Tech, 60 robots now do what 650 employees used to, and mistakes have dropped from 25 to 5 percent, while production has more than doubled.

    As for automated vehicles, experts expect fewer accidents and better fuel efficiency due to smoother acceleration and braking than with human drivers.

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    What is The Future of Work about?

    The Future of Work (2018) offers keen insights about what to expect when automation and artificial intelligence change the face of the global workforce. Author Darrell M. West gathers a wealth of expert opinions to provide a thorough look at the challenges we’ll face when the industrial economy is replaced by a digital one.

    Best quote from The Future of Work

    In 1962, AT&T was the top US business, with a market cap of $20 billion (adjusted) and 564,000 workers. Today, Apple is at the top, with a market cap of $800 billion and just 116,000 employees.

    —Darrell M. West
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    Who should read The Future of Work?

    • Students of politics and social sciences
    • Workers concerned about future employment
    • Readers interested in economics

    About the Author

    Darrell M. West works for the Brookings Institute as vice president of the Governance Studies program. His previous books include Billionaires: Reflections on the Upper Crust (2014) and Megachange: Economic Disruption, Political Upheaval, and Social Strife in the 21st Century (2016).

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