For generations of workers, displacement has been a normal albeit unequal process. Now technology is adding another layer to the mix. Workplace automation presents the larger society with a conundrum, as A.I. is set to upend companies, leaving African Americans especially vulnerable. Nearly 4.5 million African Americans in the next 10 years could lose their jobs due to automaton. Is it possible this business impediment will lead to more income inequality and is there anything that can be done about it?
Why This Matters: In a new report from McKinsey focused on the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the Black workforce, they found that this ethnic group will be hit much harder than their counterparts. These workers are more likely to be living in geographic areas and working in jobs that are disproportionately more likely to be eliminated by automation. They are highly concentrated in support roles, specifically, 60 percent of this risk lies in production, food prep, sales, transportation and administrative support. Currently, 45 percent of work activities could be automated, which is around $2 trillion in wages and a major cost savings for businesses.
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African Americans will be geographically removed from future job growth centers, and this could have a negative effect on the income generation
Tech giant Google (GOOG +0.56 percent) is one company that recognizes in a world full of algorithms, what’s most needed is “the generalist,” a quarterback, someone able to look inside the ‘black box’. Even though their workforce was only 3.3 percent Black in 2018, the interview process gauges a candidates’ response to broad challenges that are harder to automate, rather than quizzing them on any specific area of knowledge.
There are other studies which indicate the median white family holds more than 10 times the wealth of the median African American family in the U.S. McKinsey projected that closing the racial wealth gap could net the U.S. economy between $1.1 trillion and $1.5 trillion by 2028. The report suggests Black people will be geographically removed from future job growth centers, and if these trends are not addressed they could have a negative effect on the income generation, wealth, and stability of African American families.
Situational Awareness: By 2030 McKinsey predicts the employment outlook for African American men, workers 18–35 and those without a college degree may worsen dramatically. Education and lifelong learning becomes more important to how one can navigate the inevitable changes being wrought by A.I., and critical thinking becomes our defense against the rise of the machine.
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