“The robots are coming! The robots are coming! They are coming and they will completely alter our economic reality. However, instead of planning for this revolutionary change, America’s politicians — from …Bernie Sanders on down — continue to cling to the illusion that, with the right tinkering, there can be enough jobs enough for everyone, just like in the good old days. Well, the good old days are gone, and a story on the Futurism website demonstrates why.” D. Horsey, LA Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“Changying Precision Technology Co.’s cellphone factory in China recently replaced 90% of its workers with machines and saw productivity increase by 250% while the number of product defects fell by 80%. This is great news for the company, not so great news for the now-unemployed workers. Because free-market capitalism moves relentlessly toward innovation and efficiency, this is a phenomenon that will be repeated in small steps and big leaps in every industrialized society.
A White House report released in December says 83% of U.S. jobs in which people make less than $20 per hour are now, or soon will be, subject to automation. Additionally, thanks to the new marvel of driverless vehicles, all the underemployed folks who have found a slot driving for Uber and Lyft may soon find themselves redundant.
Andrew Yang, founder and chief executive of Venture for America, published an article this month that cites the White House report and warns Americans to get ready for an era of 60% unemployment. Having surveyed the thinking of top innovators in Silicon Valley, Yang says, ‘Literally the smartest people in the world think an unprecedented wave of job destruction is coming with the development of artificial intelligence, robotics, software and automation.’
And he quotes perhaps the brainiest guy in the world, scientist Stephen Hawking, as saying the ‘rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.’
Right now, it is tough for anyone with a high school education to find a job that pays enough money to live on. In just a few years, millions of jobs at the low end of the economic spectrum will be taken over by machines and the undereducated will be completely out of luck.
It will not just be hamburger flippers in trouble, though — or truckers or factory workers. Numerous middle-class office workers will be displaced by robots, as well.”
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Ask students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- Many people marvel at the new driverless vehicles.
- All underemployed folks will not have fancy cars.
- Uber and Lyft drivers may soon find themselves redundant.
- Americans need to get ready for an era of 60% unemployment.
- There is something bigger than retraining and education to be considered.
- The government needs to guarantee a minimum income for everyone.
- We need to start thinking about these and other thorny questions now.
- A great dislocation is not far away.
- Will those without jobs be looked upon as freeloaders?
- The US is a country built on self-reliance.
Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.
Right now, it is ___for anyone with a high school ___to find a ___that pays enough___ to live on. In just a few years, ___of jobs at the low end of the ___spectrum will be taken over by machines and the ___will be ___out of luck.
WORD LIST: completely, money, job, tough, undereducated, economic, education, millions,
Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition
There will be plenty/please of wreath/wealth to go around/awry, but not that much work. Unless/Unlike we want millennium/ millions to starve/stave or go homeless or rot/riot in the streets, our society will need to guarantee/grant a minimum income for everyone by letting all citizens/cities share in the vast/vault wealth created by rob/ robot labor.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use this advanced organizer from Write Design to assist them with discussing or writing about the main idea and points from the article.
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions from the article. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- These are Are there rewarding tasks to be done by the underemployed whose value is not measured by money?
- Can we find it in ourselves to respect people who do those tasks or will we dismiss them as freeloaders? (Being more liberal-minded ought to be easier since a majority of us may lack traditional employment.)
- In a country built on self-reliance, the Protestant work ethic and meritocracy, can we adjust to a very different idea about how we spend our lives?
1-Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.