The two great forces shaping the future at this time are globalization and technology.

Globalization has its benefits: We are more aware than ever of our interconnectedness with other people, nations, and cultures. But it has its downside: corporations outsource jobs to places where people work for less and there are no unions There is a story that President Obama once asked Steve Jobs what it would take to bring Apple production back to the U.S., and Jobs replied, “Those jobs are never coming back.” Why should they? It is cheaper to produce the devices in China.

Technology also has its good and bad sides. It has put us in instant touch with everyone else, it has created new jobs, it has made possible new ways of living and working.

The downside is that technology kills jobs by replacing humans with machines. Not long ago, I had dinner with a retired executive of Kraft. One of his jobs was supervising candy factories. He told me About factories that once employed 1,000 people but are now run by only two people.

A recent series of articles in USA Today includes one about the robots that will increasingly replace workers in low-skill jobs.

“”These ‘safe havens’ for low-skill workers may not be there in the decades to come,” says Carl Benedikt Frey, one of the authors of The Future of Employment, a 2013 University of Oxford study estimating the scope of automation. “A lot of low-skill workers will need to acquire creative and social skills to stay competitive in the labor market in the future.”

“Low-skill workers, experts say, need to look past any short-term job growth.

“We’re moving the unskilled jobs into skilled jobs. And that is going to be a challenge for us going forward,” says Henrik Christensen, director of the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Machines at the Georgia Institute of Technology. “If you are unskilled labor today, you’d better start thinking about getting an education.”

“USA TODAY’s analysis suggests some metro areas will gain more low-skill jobs in the next two years than others. Tourist destinations, for example, are expected to gain jobs such as food service workers, retail salespeople, housekeepers and taxi drivers by 2017. Las Vegas is expected to add nearly 900 gaming dealers, and Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., needs nearly 500 landscapers.

“Health care jobs are growing nearly everywhere, and some construction jobs are showing high demand in certain metro areas.

“Half of all jobs — and 70% of low-skill jobs— may be replaced by robots or other technology in 10 to 20 years, according to Frey’s research.”

Think of it: if half of all jobs are automated, what will people do for work?

Then there is this article by David Brooks. Quoting from an article by Kevin Kelly in “Wired,” he describes a new world of artificial intelligence. It is a world where a very small number of corporations and people grow ever more powerful.

He writes:

“The Internet is already heralding a new era of centralization. As Astra Taylor points out in her book, “The People’s Platform,” in 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31 percent of all U.S. page views, but, by 2010, they accounted for 75 percent of them. Gigantic companies like Google swallow up smaller ones. The Internet has created a long tail, but almost all the revenue and power is among the small elite at the head.

“Advances in artificial intelligence will accelerate this centralizing trend. That’s because A.I. companies will be able to reap the rewards of network effects. The bigger their network and the more data they collect, the more effective and attractive they become.

“As Kelly puts it, “Once a company enters this virtuous cycle, it tends to grow so big, so fast, that it overwhelms any upstart competitors. As a result, our A.I. future is likely to be ruled by an oligarchy of two or three large, general-purpose cloud-based commercial intelligences.”

“To put it more menacingly, engineers at a few gigantic companies will have vast-though-hidden power to shape how data are collected and framed, to harvest huge amounts of information, to build the frameworks through which the rest of us make decisions and to steer our choices. If you think this power will be used for entirely benign ends, then you have not read enough history.”

I can’t see into the future but I don’t understand how our democracy can survive this aggregation of power in so few hands. Or how a society like ours can provide enough work if such a large part of the labor force is displaced by robots.

Maybe Bob Herbert is right in his book “Losing Our Way.” This might be the right time for a vast public works project to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure. Real jobs. High social value. A vision for the future. Unless, that is, the 1% forbid it.