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Pawlenty returns to the spotlight

Tim Pawlenty talks to about 75 Republicans during a July 24, 2011, Ottumwa, Iowa, campaign stop. Since he dropped out of the presidential race later in the year, he seldom has talked in pubic. Don Davis / Forum News Service

EAGAN, Minn. — Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty returned to the public spotlight Friday to warn Minnesotans to prepare for the ­profound changes that technology will produce in the future.

"We are at the dawn of the fourth industrial revolution," Pawlenty said at a Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting in Eagan. "The world is changing very rapidly. Part of that change will be very, very exciting and positive, and some of it's going to be disruptive and challenging."

Now president and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington-based lobbying group for financial institutions, the former two-term Republican Minnesota governor said developments in artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, biotechnology and other technologies will increase the speed, precision and productivity of workers and industries.

For example, he said, drones will soon start delivering medical prescriptions to homes, making them available much more quickly. And IBM's Watson computer system will make all medical knowledge instantly accessible throughout the world.

But technological advancements, he said, can also increase threats of terrorism, surveillance, violations of privacy and social and economic disruption. Most of the nation's 4 million truck and taxi drivers and others who make a living by driving will be replaced by driverless vehicles in five to 10 years, he predicted.

Minnesotans should "do everything we can" to elevate the level of discussion among business, government and community leaders about these changes, he said. They need to identify the skills state residents need to "get our share" of benefits from technological improvements.

While the state is dynamic, innovative and well-educated, Pawlenty said, "I'm worried about Minnesota sometimes becoming a little too complacent, resting on where we are now."

The state's educational systems are unprepared for the coming changes, he said. They need to redesign their curricula to train workers for the jobs of the future.

Here are some of Pawlenty's comments on other issues:

As he has said numerous times before, Pawlenty again told reporters that he is "politically retired" and does not intend to run for office again.

But Pawlenty did say he plans to get more involved in promoting issues that interest him in Minnesota and expects to campaign for Republican candidates next year.

Obamacare's repeal

Regarding the health care debate in Washington, he said Republicans, after years of promises, had to do something they could call "repeal and replace Obamacare."

But Pawlenty predicted the Senate will make major changes in the House-passed bill, and he said his personal view is: "You have to keep protections for pre-existing conditions" so sick people can get insurance and not depend on "the whim of some politician."

Minnesota tax cuts

At the state Capitol, he said that with a budget surplus, the Republican majorities in the Senate and House must deliver tax relief that's "pro-growth, pro-investment and pro-jobs and doing it in a way that doesn't look like they're just giving a bunch of money to wealthy people."

Pawlenty adds that they also must do more to permanently hold down rising health insurance costs.