Elon Musk: How Driverless Cars Will Disrupt the Workforce

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Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk speaks at the World Government Summit in Dubai.

“The most near term impact from a technology standpoint is autonomous cars … That is going to happen much faster than people realize and it’s going to be a great convenience.” — Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX CEO

It is no secret that automation, artificial intelligence and other advances in technology have started to and will continue to threaten existing jobs, but hearing one of the top technological minds offer up a sobering warning about its impending impact caught our attention here at WorkingNation.

During a World Government Summit in Dubai Monday, Elon Musk told the audience (around 17:30 mark in video) that AI, particularly autonomous cars, will cause a disruption to people whose job it is to drive over the next 20 years, after which 12 to 15 percent of the global workforce will be unemployed.

Musk has even gone so far as saying that automation will cause a disruption in jobs so great that eventually the government will have to pay people “a universal basic income.” A potential solution he reiterated at Monday’s summit.

While this all sounds pretty grim, Musk has said that automation will ultimately be an overall benefit to society, even an opportunity.

“People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things,” Musk told CNBC back in November. “Certainly more leisure time.”

While Musk is not completely sold on the idea of a universal basic income because it could impede on people’s sense of purpose, he does think there is a place for workers, especially drivers, in an automated workforce.

“There are many people whose jobs are to drive. In fact, I think it might be the single largest employer of people … driving in various forms. So we need to figure out new roles for what do those people do, but it will be very disruptive and very quick,” Musk said Monday.

Providing a link between employees and these new roles is the key to a sustainable, flourishing workforce. Advances in technology and automation are not going to slow down, so it is going to up to employers, communities, local governments, and educational institutions to work together to equip people with the skills they need to fill the new jobs.

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