Man vs. machine: Are we prepared for the future of work?
1:45 PM - 3:00 PM
Sat Oct 6, 2018
Harvard Kennedy School - L-140
society digital PANEL


Automation is affecting all sectors of the economy and seems poised to dramatically shift the nature of work. Many jobs formerly done by humans are being taken up by machines, from self-driving cars to robotic manufacturing and computerized back-office functions. Hence, the following questions arise: What jobs will still be around in 20 years? And, are we ultimately heading towards a jobless future?


Questions around the impact of automation on our professional fates are as much about understanding new technology as they are about implementing and adjusting age-old labor policy: Is preparing for a future without the jobs we know today simply a matter of updating what we’re being trained for? A transatlantic comparison of workforce approaches provide insights. Germany is known for its system of professional training that has given the economic middle class access to consistent employment in various trades. In contrast, the U.S.’s investment in its middle-class workforce has always been significantly lower. Workers in both countries, however, face competition and downward pressure on wages driven by technologies. Will the professional and technical training approach that Germany is renown for help stave off obsolescence, or will we all end up out of work?


This panel focuses on the social, political, and technical approaches to prepare for the future of work. Will automation affect Germany and the US differently? What structures are currently in place to help mitigate the consequences of technological disruption? Or, perhaps: How can we set automation on a course that enhances our work experiences rather than diminishing them? A comparative lense allows us to disentangle what  Germany and the US can learn from one another and how collaboration might ensure a prosperous and stable future for both societies.

Simon J├Ąger Silverman (1968) Family Career Development Assistant Professor of Economics, MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Metin Hakverdi Member | SPD, German Parliament
Irene Braam Executive Director, Bertelsmann Foundation North America
Uschi Backes-Gellner Visiting Scholar Harvard University
Christian Ketels Chief Economist, Boston Consulting Group

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