Spencer Lowell/Psychology Today
Tonopah and Elko, both small towns in Nevada, were the site of a Psychology Today investigation into mental health care in rural America.
Source: Spencer Lowell/Psychology Today

I’m thrilled by the prospect of brain machine interfaces, but they remain far off in a country roiled by present-day problems. In 2018, the merger of man and machine that's captured my attention is not about outboard brains, but onboard talent. I'm excited about the alignment of people most in need of work with the sector that’s generating the most jobs. The U.S. economy is increasingly powered by a coastal tech turbine, while huge swaths of heartland and rural America are mired in unemployment and poverty.

The disparity is evident in the online articles we've just published, in which rural mental health care (“Where No One Hears a Cry for Help”) is chronicled alongside a story about the dawn of facial-recognition technology (“All Over Your Face”).

How can we integrate high-tech and low-income communities, rather than simply assuming that one will continue to displace the other?

Fortunately, there are organizations working at this critical intersection, making strides to infuse struggling communities with capital and with jobs.  

Opportunity@Work serves as a pipeline to the tech sector for skilled candidates in the heartland, where IT recruiters don’t normally tread. The new Center on Rural Innovation (CORI) plans to launch “innovation hubs” in economically distressed communities. Among its offerings: training for locals and mixed-use spaces that encourage entrepreneurship. CORI is currently testing a pilot program in a small Vermont town.

Spencer Lowell/Psychology Today
Source: Spencer Lowell/Psychology Today

There’s endless handwringing about just how soon AI and automation will gut today’s workforce. These organizations flip the equation—and the narrative—with their focus on human labor that can enrich the tech sector. In this, Opportunity@Work and CORI meet multiple demands at once.

I applaud these organizations (which are backed by folks in Silicon Valley) and hope that they are the first of many creative initiatives to help integrate local communities into the global economy.

This is the man-machine interface that America needs in 2018.

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