The subtle technological refinement that will plunge a third of working Americans into deep and unyielding poverty was prefaced with “Just throwing this out there.”

CAMBRIDGE, MA—Midway through a routine laboratory session Wednesday, sources say MIT graduate student Evan Ward casually remarked “What if we try this?” before making a small change to a robotic device that will one day eliminate 30 percent of the U.S. workforce.

Ward’s off-the-cuff suggestion to slightly adjust a single component of the machine will reportedly result in nearly 50 million jobs being made expendable over the next two decades, wreaking havoc on the economy and giving rise to historic levels of unemployment that will persist for generations.

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“Maybe this will work,” the 24-year-old said out of mere curiosity, oblivious to the fact that the tiny modification he had suggested making to the actuator circuit of a robotic arm will result in America’s most vital industries laying off hundreds of thousands of workers every month. “I don’t know, though. I guess it doesn’t matter.”

“What do you guys think?” he added.

Current projections indicate the “little tweak,” which reportedly seemed so insignificant to Ward that he almost didn’t even bother mentioning it, will lead in time to the complete disappearance of millions of jobs in manufacturing, transportation, warehousing, mining, construction, food processing, and telecommunications.

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Reports indicate that the grad student’s spontaneous suggestion involved adjusting the servo motor of an industrial robot by less than 3 millimeters, a modification that will forever change the lives of Americans as it renders hundreds of entire occupations obsolete and makes the existing skills and education of many workers all but useless in an utterly transformed economy.

“It couldn’t hurt to try anyway,” Ward said of his idea, whose applications will drastically cut overhead for U.S. companies, lead to higher returns for shareholders, and cast thousands of the nation’s working- and middle-class communities into abject poverty. “What do we have to lose?”

Ward’s spur-of-the-moment recommendation to alter the mechanism “just a smidge” will reportedly cause millions to lose their homes, become unable to support their families, and never again find work in their fields of expertise, events that sources say will result in the creation of a greatly expanded underclass that will remain a permanent feature of American society.

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“Let’s give it a shot,” said professor Barbara Simmons, who oversees the lab and who will eventually join the growing number of jobless Americans once her student’s innovation causes her engineering curriculum to become irrevocably outdated. “Hey, maybe we’ll learn something at least.”

At press time, however, another student in the robotics lab had stumbled upon a groundbreaking technology that, before Ward’s discovery has a chance to devastate the economy, will inadvertently wipe out the entire human race.