As our society obsesses over whether robots and AI will put millions of people out of work, we’re missing out on a once-in-a-century opportunity.

In the next 20 years, not only robots and AI but also augmented and virtual reality, digital fabrication, and other emerging tech will create an abundance of wealth. Robots and AI threaten to shatter the link between this new wealth and broad prosperity: new industries may not create lots of good jobs. Makers All believes that if we can put everyday people in the driver’s seat, if we can figure out how to train millions of adults from Compton to Appalachia to become developers and designers, they can capture a big enough slice of emerging tech’s wealth to help revitalize our communities.

The idea of training millions of adults to master a complex technological skill might seem like a pipe dream. It’s not. We’ve done it before with a massive community-oriented program called Extension Services. If we remix the lessons of Extension Services with those of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement’s Citizenship Schools, which used similar techniques but overcame Extension Service’s shortcomings, we can create a strategy to help communities shape their destinies by transforming emerging tech.

Makers All is a project to assist communities in using this strategy and to ultimately develop a community-based network and institutions that operate at the scale of Extension Services. This approach won’t solve all the economic problems created by robots and AI; not everyone is going to become a programmer or designer, and many jobs created by robots/AI may be low paid jobs. But this approach can serve as one critical foundation for rebuilding our communities and making them whole.

For more information, see our flagship report.

About Anders Schneiderman

Anders Schneiderman is the founder and director of Makers All. He is a sociologist turned techie, with over 30 years of experience as a developer, software project manager and adult tech trainer at labor unions, corporations, nonprofits, and government.

Email: aschneiderman makersall do.t. org

Twitter: @raschneiderman