Facebook CEO Zuckerberg: Adapting workforce to tech is our defining challenge

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Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) founder Mark Zuckerberg spoke to graduates at Harvard University Thursday about the challenges that face a society where automation is increasingly displacing people in the workforce.

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“The challenge for our generation is to create a world where everyone has a purpose … Technology and automation are eliminating many jobs ... a lot of people are feeling disconnected and depressed,” Zuckerberg said.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s speech focused on purpose as a necessary societal objective derived from fostering community, effecting social and political progress and redefining equality. The Facebook mogul noted “hundreds of millions” of jobs will be lost in the coming years due to the introduction of technology, like self-driving cars, into the workforce at a faster clip. This, he said, has made finding purpose different from past generations where it could be derived from a reliable job in a stable workforce.

“We have a generational challenge to not only create new jobs, but to create a renewed sense of purpose,” he said. “There are people left behind by globalization all across the world.”

The manufacturing sector has been hit particularly hard by those lost jobs, and in addition to putting a large emphasis on U.S. job creation and bringing manufacturing jobs to the country, the Trump administration has focused efforts on vocational training, what it refers to as training the workforce of the future. The president has collaborated with some high-profile executives, including IBM (NYSE:IBM) CEO Ginni Rometty and Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) CEO Andrew Liveris on developing alternative paths to the traditional education system.

Zuckerberg, who dropped out of Harvard to start Facebook, also characterized the current generation as “entrepreneurial.” A new social contract is needed, he said, that explores universal income, affordable child care and a health care system where citizens are not tied to one employer; topics to be considered amid “a battle of ideas” between those who support globalization and those who shy away from it.

While Zuckerberg heads a multi-billion dollar company, he joked “getting into Harvard is the thing my parents are most proud of me for.”

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