A group of top economists and innovators met in Palm Beach Monday to sound an alarm: radical change is coming to the American workforce.
The conference, hosted by the Greene Institute, was appropriately named: Managing the Disruption.
A recent study by the research firm PwC found nearly 40 percent of U.S. jobs could be lost to automation in the next 15 years.
Author Thomas Friedman told the group, "If you were a white man in his home state of Minnesota in the 50s, 60s and 70s, there were so many high-wage, middle-skill jobs that you actually needed a plan in order to fail. "
“Those days are gone. Today you need a plan to succeed and you need to update it every single day,” Friedman said.
The New York Times columnist called this an age of tremendous technological acceleration. Americans need to learn faster and govern smarter. And there’s one common denominator.
“More will be on you,” said Friedman.
Lifelong learning, self-motivation and entrepreneurialism are a must.
“Today, you have to work harder, relearn faster, retool more often, re-engineer yourself and then you can be in the middle class.
And on the governing side, he said, we need to improve our safety nets.
“This world will be too damn fast for some people.”
But political gridlock makes quick policy adaptations to technological disruption next to impossible. And New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knows who is responsible for that.
“Politicians are simple people. If you want to see who we are and what we do: hold up a mirror. We are a reflection of you,” said Christie.
To illustrate his point, Christie told an anecdote. He said he recently sent out "a substantive tweet on an insurance issue." Within 15 minutes, he said had 120 responses along the lines of :
“When are you just going to go away?”
“How does your family live with you?”
“You should be in jail!”
“That’s not me -- that’s you,” Christie said. “If you want to know where the coarseness in today’s politics comes from, it comes from you.”
Other speakers at the event included futurist Ray Kurzweil, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, MIT robotics expert Kate Darling, former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón and Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa.