I sometimes have the opportunity to mentor younger professionals, and they often laugh when I suggest that their number one career goal should be to simply stay employed in a hard-to-automate job. The trends are sobering.

The forecast of an America where robots do all the work while humans live off some yet-to-be-invented welfare program may be a Silicon Valley pipe dream. But automation is changing the nature of work, flushing workers without a college degree out of productive industries, like manufacturing and high-tech services, and into tasks with meager wages and no prospect for advancement.

Automation is splitting the American labor force into two worlds. There is a small island of highly educated professionals making good wages at corporations like Intel or Boeing, which reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit per employee. That island sits in the middle of a sea of less educated workers who are stuck at businesses like hotels, restaurants and nursing homes that generate much smaller profits per employee and stay viable primarily by keeping wages low. ...

"Until a few years ago, I didn't think this was a very complicated subject; The Luddites were wrong and the believers in technology and technological progress were right," Lawrence Summers, a former Treasury secretary and presidential economic adviser, said in a lecture at the National Bureau of Economic Research five years ago. "I'm not so completely certain now."

The threat isn't just to jobs that don't require a college degree, that's a vast oversimplification. Here's a graphic by McKinsey from 2016.

And note that the "managing others" category is hard to automate, but also becomes less necessary when there aren't many humans left to manage.

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