You don’t have to look far to find concerns about how technology will steal our jobs. It’s been widely noticed that automation is making machines more powerful and shortening the list of current jobs that only a human can do.
Over the weekend, I read Martin Ford‘s new book, Rise of the Robots, which is a thorough look at how far machines have come. Ford warns of a coming perfect storm in which humanity has to combat rising inequality, unemployment triggered by technology, and climate change. He says finding a way forward may be the greatest challenge of our time.
Yes, robots are coming for our current jobs, and that’s an issue. But what’s especially interesting is the place where Ford says we really need to get some robots — health care.
Ford outlines the explosion in health-care costs. In 1960, health care was less than 6 percent of the U.S. economy. That tripled by 2013. The United States spends about double what most industrialized countries spend on health care.
“The danger, in a sense, is not too many health care robots but too few,” Ford writes. “If technology has only a muted impact on health care costs even as it disrupts other employment sectors, the economic risks we face will be amplified. In that scenario, the burden of soaring health care costs will become even more unsustainable as advancing technology continues to produce unemployment and ever-increasing inequality, as well as stagnant, or even falling, incomes for most workers in other industries.”
Essentially, it’s inevitable that technology will upend other sectors. We’ve seen in the 50 years since Moore’s Law the breathtaking changes in our world. But if technology can’t improve the health-care sector, health care could become a luxury good.
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