Is Labor Day an endangered holiday?
HOUSTON — (Sept. 1, 2016) — With U.S. labor force participation at 62 percent and declining, Rice University artificial-intelligence expert Moshe Vardi is available to discuss whether Labor Day will remain a meaningful holiday in a society where fewer than 50 percent of workers actually hold jobs.
“The more commonly reported measures of unemployment do not capture the depth of the social change that is occurring due to robotics and automation,” said Vardi, Rice’s Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor of Computational Engineering and director of Rice’s Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology. “In the United States, manufacturing output is at an all-time high while manufacturing employment is steadily falling. This is largely because of robotics, and there are other industries, particularly transportation and retail, where robotics is poised to eliminate millions of jobs in the next 20 years.
“Young adults entering the U.S. workforce this Labor Day could spend as many as half of their prime working years in a society where most people don’t work,” Vardi said. “What will that mean for them? What will it mean for society?”
One possibility is a minimum salary for everyone, regardless of whether they are actually employed. Vardi said a number of proposals for Universal Basic Income (UBI) are either being piloted or seriously debated in Canada, Finland, the Netherlands and other countries.
Vardi, who has been studying automation and labor trends for several years, said more attention should be given to the economic, social and political consequences of substituting machines for human workers. He is organizing an academic conference — the first in the U.S. — Dec. 5-6 at Rice titled “Humans, Machines and the Future of Work.” For more information, visit delange.rice.edu.
Humans, Machines and the Future of Work
De Lange Conference X, Dec. 5-6
Related columns and presentations by Vardi:
Jobs. Driving. And machines that can learn.
Houston Chronicle/Gray Matters — May 25, 2016
Are robots taking our jobs?
The Conversation — April 6, 2016
Humans, machines and the future of work
Video presentation from Oxford University — Dec. 18, 2015
The consequences of machine intelligence
The Atlantic — Oct. 25, 2012
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