Economic Program | Report

Dancing with Robots: Human Skills for Computerized Work

by Frank Levy and Richard Murnane

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How do we ensure American middle class prosperity in an era of ever-intensifying globalization and technological upheaval? That is the question we are trying to answer with NEXT—a new project at Third Way that taps into cutting edge research by top American academics.

We all know about losing jobs to China, but what about losing jobs to the microchip?

In Dancing with Robots, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane show that the pressure on the middle class workforce in America has as much to do with the technology revolution and computerization of tasks as with global forces like China.

The authors argue that the challenge we face with computerized work is not mass unemployment, but rather educating far more young people for the higher wage jobs that computers cannot do—writing a convincing legal brief or diagnosing an automotive problem the factory had not foreseen.

Mastering the skills to perform well paid “human work” begins before kindergarten. It requires K-12 education in solving “messy” problems and in communication that many children never receive.

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