As the general election campaign begins, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are fighting over a key voting bloc that may decide the election, displaced working class people. Trump is promising to bring manufacturing Jobs back from where they have been outsourced overseas, by renegotiating what he considers bad trade deals, corporate tax cuts, and punitive measures against corporations that outsource. Many of Clinton’s policies, from the war on Coal to hiking the minimum wage to punitive tax increases on “the wealthy” seem designed to destroy jobs.

Both candidates promise a massive infrastructure rebuilding program that will stimulate job creation. But science journalist Alan Boyle points out that both Trump and Clinton are missing the point. The real threat to jobs is coming from automation, robots and artificial intelligence.

American manufacturing is actually more robust than it has ever been, but more and more tasks are being done by machines and not people. The trend is likely to continue, to such an extent that manufacturing is not likely to become a great engine for job creation.

The automation of manufacturing is only the beginning. With the development of driverless vehicles, transportation will be the next sector to start shedding jobs. Truck drivers, cabbies, and even train conductors are jobs whose days are numbered. Sooner that we would imagine, the day when a passenger can just order a car to take him or her somewhere and then sit back and do something else besides driving will be upon us.

The drive to hike the minimum wage, said to help lower end workers earn a “living wage” will start destroying jobs in the restaurant and retail industries. People are going to start ordering their food from kiosks or tablets embedded in their tables and see their meals delivered by robots. Online stores like Amazon.com have already eliminated store clerk jobs. Packages will soon be delivered by driverless trucks and even aerial drones.

How do public policy experts intend to come to grips with this development remains unclear. Technology that destroys jobs often creates new ones, but that means that retraining becomes necessary to move displaced workers into new careers, many which will require creativity. Ready or not, the next president will have to come to grips with the trend. It 'd be good if some debate were to occur before that person is elected.

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