Automation and the fear that robots will take over human jobs has been a frequent talking point in the news lately. But at the moment, General Electric chief executive officer Jeff Immelt, via Quartz, argues that these concerns are premature.
“I think before we go to the phase where it’s only robots at every bench, we are going to go through a phase of smarter workers.” Immelt said.
Instead, Immelt said the focus for politicians should be to get more workers trained in smart skills designed to prepare them for future jobs. While Immelt dismissed the notion that automation would lead to mass unemployment, he said that policy should still emphasize producing better-educated workers.
“I don’t know exactly how many phases that we’re going to go through,” Immelt said. “But I think we’re going to be in phase ‘smart worker’ for a fair amount of time. I really do. I think we’re better off as a country focusing on the smart-worker phase than going right to ‘robots are evil.'”
Robots have played a role in modern manufacturing for a while, but much of the current concern for policy makers has been on smarted automated technology that makes human workers replaceable. Within the U.S., analysts say this scenario could come at an accelerated rate soon. A report from firm PwC suggests that 38 percent of U.S. jobs could be vulnerable to being lost to automation within the next two decades.