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NC State Economist Mike Walden: Technology & Jobs

Host Mary Walden asks if we are going through another workplace revolution related to the development and use of information technology. Economist Mike Walden responds to the question, “Do we know how this revolution will impact jobs?”

Mike Walden says, “Well Mary, we’ve been through this several times in our country.  For example if you go back 100, 150 years, we had agriculture — very labor intensive.  Then came the tractor. Then came other mechanized agriculture implements, and that released a lot of workers from agriculture.

“Fortunately, that was just at the time that manufacturing was beginning. So those workers effectively could go into manufacturing. And then manufacturing went the same route. Mechanization, etc.; workers are released. But a lot of those over the last 20 or 30 years have been absorbed by the increase in the service economy.

“Now though, what we are seeing, and many futurists are saying we are seeing, is a new change particularly focused on information technology that some call the digital revolution, whereby machines and technology are going to the next level. And a lot of them — a lot of those machines and technology — will not just be able to do common everyday tasks that are repeated, but they’ll actually be able to perhaps be involved in some thinking.  And their dexterity, for example, of robots, is going to be much more advanced.

“So some say that we’re going to go through a new phase of seeing a lot of workers simply released from their jobs because they’re going to be replaced by machines and technology. The big question, of course, is will there be a new industry out there developed to absorb these released workers?”'

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.