Digital skills are necessary for the 21st-century workforce. Here’s why.

AI literacy is financial literacy

“The logical response to continuing automation is for the government to strike a new 21st-century bargain with its citizens. The government should help them to help themselves throughout their working lives to upgrade or acquire the skills the market demands to fill the new jobs that will be created by automation.”

—Brookings Institution, A blueprint for the future of AI: How to adjust to automation

Robots threatening to take your job. Social credit score systems determining life opportunities way beyond your eligibility for a loan. Algorithms determining the products that are advertised to you. Artificial intelligence and automation are well on their way to upend…well, pretty much everything about human society, from international policy and national security down to your weekly grocery shopping. (“Siri, add pancake mix to my list.”) And that certainly extends to your financial life, particularly for the millions of Americans for whom AI innovations present new obstacles to making a decent living, whether they’re just starting out on their career paths or are already down the road.

As this Brookings Institution report details, there’s going to be no reversing the tide of AI’s impact on the workforce (no matter the Trump administration’s dramatic tariff hikes purported to protect American jobs). What needs to evolve is education policy, from K–12 to college to mid-career and beyond, creating opportunities for workers to adjust to the ever-changing nature of AI-enabled technologies.

AI literacy will be crucial for modern workers’ ability to earn a living—and that’s why I see this as a personal finance issue. But it also reminds me of a question I often pose to audiences when I’m talking about financial literacy: Remember home ec class, where you’d learn to sew a button and balance a checkbook? It’s a vanishing species in today’s high schools. Because in our age of convenience, why work out your budget with pen and paper when you can do it in Mint? (And why pick up a needle and thread when you can Amazon Prime yourself a new shirt for same-day delivery?)

The wise answer, of course, is that doing something yourself helps you understand the process—and take control of it. That’s why I advocate diving in and DIY-ing your financial life from time to time, even if it’s something as simple as doing your own taxes at least once or giving your kids a cash allowance instead of sending them beans or tokens through an app.

The Brookings report is calling for a kind of 21st-century home ec, for Americans of all ages—one that replaces baking and checkbook balancing with coding, robotics, and blockchain. And this comes up against another major personal finance issue: the ever-rising cost of education, and the barriers so many Americans face to obtain it. At a time when our national leadership doesn’t seem to value affordable education, it can be hard to see a way forward for this issue. Yet AI’s unstoppable path is already moving thousands of industries to evolve their workforces. If the U.S. wants to keep pace in the 21st century, policymakers would be wise to follow this call to action and make digital skills training accessible to all Americans.

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