So, 2016 was a year of disruption. Consumer developments included live streaming services, which revolutionized how people obtained news, performed a show, or even marketed products. Augmented and virtual reality brought us viral games like Pokémon Go, which alone doubled Nintendo’s stock prices. Breakthroughs continued to disrupt scientific research in 2016: a new method to alter genes to create traits like disease resistance and drought tolerance shook up medicine and agriculture.
We have not had to confront unintended side effects of such disruptive technologies.
This will change in 2017. Technology has come to disrupt politics.
Jobless growth: A curious pattern in economics is developing due in no small part to technology growth and automation. While productivity continues to grow in the post-Great Recession economy, incomes remain virtually unchanged. This means that the economy is getting more productive and GDP keeps growing without any meaningful bumps in median income. Technological progress is making it easier for firms to be more productive without needing to hire more employees: they have new software solutions and robots for that. The economy seems to be growing without the tangible effects we traditionally see in the economy. Rather than productivity increasing together with wages, we’re seeing the “great decoupling.” While productivity has increased 72.2 percent since 1973, median hourly wage has only increased 8.7 percent, according to the Economic Policy Institute.
Politicians will need to craft new policies that can address the growing divide between productivity and incomes: we can no longer go off GDP growth alone. Politicians will need to examine how incomes have changed and pay greater attention to employment numbers.
Automation: Automation is part of why jobless growth is such a challenge: many blue-collar and a growing number of white-collar jobs will no longer need humans. Now, machines and computers can not only build cars, but they can also gather and analyze all kinds of data that we needed humans to comb through in the past. One study by economists Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimates that 47 percent of jobs are in danger of automation in the U.S.
What can politicians do about this?
Some economists like Pavlina Tcherneva of the Levy Economics Institute advocates a universal job guarantee. Rather than provide a basic income, the government could ensure that all Americans who want a job could get one — in the style of FDR’s New Deal.
Expect this conversation to hit the national stage in 2017. Pro-business, pro-jobs President Trump may have his work cut out for him.
Data security: If there’s anything the 2016 presidential election has taught us, it’s that data security will be paramount going forward. Russia’s meddling in the elections seems to be more and more probable as cyber experts weigh in on the DNC’s security vulnerabilities and U.S. tracking capabilities. The Chinese were blamed for attacks on the federal Office of Personnel Management’s database and even the FDIC.
As companies and government agencies become more data driven in 2017, security will need to take center stage. But how can politicians ensure that important databases are secure? This will be one of the biggest questions of 2017.
2017 will be a political roller coaster thanks to tech’s disruptive power.