Robots are coming for your job--here's what to do about it

Technology is about to shake things up for the American worker.

As Silicon Valley brings automation to every sector of the U.S. economy, one thing is clear: work is changing. A recent McKinsey Global Institute study warned that as many as 375 million workers will need to switch occupational categories by 2030 due to automation.

Jobs that require only a high school degree, or involve repetitive tasks are most in danger. This includes cashiers, toll booth operators and fast food workers.

Experts say that one of the most at-risk occupations is driving. Autonomous vehicles will be more efficient and affordable, which will make them preferable to human-driven cars and trucks. Vivek Wadhwa, author of "The Driver in the Driverless Car," estimates that close to 5 million driving jobs will disappear in the early 2020s, as cars and trucks achieve full autonomy.

The biggest tech and auto companies -- such as Toyota, General Motors, Uber, Ford and Google's parent company Alphabet -- are investing billions of dollars to develop autonomous vehicles. They're chasing a huge pot of gold — a recent Intel study forecast the industry at $7 trillion by 2050.

On Capitol Hill, autonomous vehicle bills in the House and Senate haven't addressed large trucks, as politicians wrestle with the problem of job displacement. The Self Drive Act, which passed unanimously in the House of Representatives in September, prevents each state from developing its own set of rules governing autonomous vehicles under 10,000 pounds. This simplified regulatory structure should accelerate how quickly autonomous cars arrive, but not trucks.

"We should not be complacent as these technologies come on board," Alexa Delbosc, a civil engineering professor at Monash University, told CNN Tech. "All new technologies will displace jobs. The question is what happens to those people?"

The silver lining is that technologies always create new jobs. In the late 1800s, most U.S. residents worked on farms. When the country shifted from an agricultural to industrial economy, new jobs sprung up in factories.

Experts say that the innovations of today will provide new opportunities for workers who are adaptable, and able to acquire new skills. But it's tough to teach an old dog new tricks. And not every mid-career worker will have the time, money or desire to retrain themselves. Those who don't, risk irrelevance.

"What to do about mass unemployment? This is going to be a massive social challenge," Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said at the World Government Summit last year. "If there's not a need for your labor, do you feel useless?"

Concerns about disruption have triggered some to call for a universal basic income, as a safety net to protect workers who aren't able to find new work. With this, all participants receive a monthly stipend to cover minimal needs. The idea has been endorsed by leading technologists such as Musk and Mark Zuckerberg. Finland and Canada have begun pilot tests.

"The jobpocalypse is coming," Jason Calacanis, a prominent Silicon Valley investor, wrote in his recent book, "Angel." "We've got a 70% chance of figuring out this massive sea change without starting a full-on revolution in the streets."