By Dean Whittaker

On October 14-17, I attended the annual meeting of The International Economic Development Council in Indianapolis, Indiana. The scale and scope of the four-day event surprised this old hand: With 80 concurrent sessions and hundreds of speakers, we, 1500 attendees had plenty to choose from.

Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s plenary speech on the economic impact of artificial intelligence and robotics particularly captured my attention. With a background in international law, Dr. Slaughter is a political analyst and public commentator, and the CEO of the think tank New America. Dr Slaughter’s talk covered several important topics; the future of work, care giving and health.

Dr. Slaughter listed fours areas in which she predicted career opportunities and job growth. The first area is in the fields of data and data services. With vast amounts of data being produced and the computer power to find patterns in the information, she felt that every line of work from architect to zookeeper will be impacted.  The next sector was the care industry that includes day care, elder care, life coaching and “healthcare navigator.” Dr. Slaughter said that government and business will need to subsidize these care giving fields if care givers are going to be able to participate more fulling in the economy at large.  

The choice between care giver or a breadwinner is blurring as our society and our culture value them equally. She said that new careers and job opportunities are opening particularly in food and beverages, and customization of products through 3-D design and printing.  She spoke of opportunities that the circular economy offers with rehab/recycling and sustainability as the focus. The need to adapt to climate change demands a focus on resilience, hence the birth of the Chief Resilience Officer within companies and communities.

She said to achieve this new balance of bread winning and caregiving will require an investment in the infrastructure of care for children and elders. Society and our culture are changing to value them equally. To address the issue of caregiving and affordable housing will require a shift within government and corporations to value both stockholders AND stakeholders.  

She predicted a shift from health care to health with the goal being to keep people healthy to reduce the need to treat illnesses. She said that the engine of growth will be both local and global.  Mayors and governors are becoming ambassadors of policies to create a more resilient world.  

Overall, I felt her presentation was the most thought provoking I heard at the conference. As the last of four the panelist in the plenary session, Dr. Slaughter covered a lot of ground in a short time. To learn more, check out Anne-Marie Slaughter’s 2010 TED talk