General Electric is going all in on futuristic manufacturing, having ditched businesses like finance and network television to focus on building stuff like jet engines and gas turbines. Here's what CEO Jeff Immelt thinks about automation and the future of work:
- He thinks fears of robot-driven joblessness are overblown, even as he invests billions in automation: "This notion of the war of the robots happening in the short term, that's more of a Silicon Valley vision than the real world."
- Robots are making Americans richer: Businesses can only pay workers more if they become more productive, and automation allows humans to focus on more valuable tasks.
- It's not just technology, but politics that drive automation: "The question of the last election was, 'how do you create $25 per hour jobs?" Immelt argues. In a global economy, jobs that don't require trained workers to leverage the power of computers and automation simply won't pay that well.
- All business will be in the education business: Immelt says that GE and firms like it must do more to train workers to rise above tasks that robots can do, "not because we're bleeding hearts, but because we're good at it."