Who Will Gain From Technology’s Advances? Who Will Be Left Behind?

BY Paul Solman  July 25, 2012 at 10:38 AM EDT

Face massage
Creative Commons photo courtesy flickr user o5com.

Paul Solman frequently answers questions from the NewsHour audience on business and economic news here on his Making Sen$e page. Here is Wednesday’s query:

Name: Manuel Avila

Question: This is in response to the optimists and others at [Singularity] University. Who will buy all those handheld magic devices and all those applications? Will only a minority in a society hope to make middle class status by being smart? There are over 300 million people in the U.S. alone. How many of those are IT industry-smart, and how much is open to them?

Paul Solman: I agree. These are among the key questions that cloud our collective future and very much the ones we hoped our story would raise, in Man v. Machine. I’m not sure that most human work will ever depend on “smarts,” even with the almost complete mechanization of agriculture and — soon perhaps — manufacturing. I suspect no correlation between measurable mental agility and the skills required to care for one another — children or the elderly — to give one another instruction in yoga, capoeira, nia, you name it, or simply to administer massages. My half-serious MMM initiative, for example, promises to employ as many as 10 million Americans, regardless of IQ scores.

But even if smarts and caretaking don’t correlate, how do we evolve from an economy in which the former are prized; the latter, low-paid? How, as you ask, do we restore a vibrant middle class? Tough question.

This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown- NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.