Do you think the accompanying article predicts massive upheaval in society over the next decade as technology eliminates jobs? How should society react if this happens?

Updated on : December 8, 2021 by Dylan Wood



Do you think the accompanying article predicts massive upheaval in society over the next decade as technology eliminates jobs? How should society react if this happens?

I sure will.

But I don't know exactly how society will / should respond.

What can be said with certainty is that we will have to respond in some way. If we remain calm and overcome our emotions and fear of change, our society could still respond well.

But in reality, there is no way to stop these changes, so we must accept the fact.

It does not come only because of new technologies. Old factories are rotting and falling apart over the years, and no factory can waste time to fix things properly, because everywhere there is a deadline that must be met.

Are really the deadlines that go

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I sure will.

But I don't know exactly how society will / should respond.

What can be said with certainty is that we will have to respond in some way. If we remain calm and overcome our emotions and fear of change, our society could still respond well.

But in reality, there is no way to stop these changes, so we must accept the fact.

It does not come only because of new technologies. Old factories are rotting and falling apart over the years, and no factory can waste time to fix things properly, because everywhere there is a deadline that must be met.

It is really the deadlines that are going to force the change more than the new technologies. As old factories and old businesses break down more and more, but deadlines force factories to work with gradually failing equipment, factories will run fairly, and not infrequently because more and more workers will die at a loss. as factories age.

So the newer technologies will be the only thing money can buy, because no one is going to mass produce the parts for some factory conveyor belt that was erected in the 1920s.

So not only will more worker deaths lead to disruption, but as factories collapse, business owners will simply have to upgrade as there will be no other option.

At this time, I personally regard the Chinese company Alibaba as a valuable role model for the future. You don't have as many human employees due to a lot more robots / automation, but the human employees you have work in happier and safer conditions.

Meanwhile, Amazon is frequently in the news about all the employee deaths that occur in that corporation's warehouses, because it is still set up more like an old factory.

However, something just occurred to me, as an afterthought, but I don't want to spoil the result by betraying the truth here.

However, I can darkly say that if certain other "Jetsons age" technologies are perfected over the next few decades, particularly the one that can produce a shake at the touch of a button, then it won't be a bad thing to lose all sorts of jobs to automation anyway, because people will need that much money if they can ... just ask your computer for a shake? :-)

This is a controversial issue. Economists come from both sides. In my opinion, this VanityFair article leans a lot towards the alarmist and over the top side. It is true that automation is transforming work, as it has for 200 years. The question about artificial intelligence and related technologies is how quickly it replaces people in cognitive work and skilled work. Please see my answer to this Quora question for more information on what AI and robots are good at and not at. What will be the biggest effect of artificial intelligence on the workforce?

Predictions about the future are said to tend to overestimate the sp

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This is a controversial issue. Economists come from both sides. In my opinion, this VanityFair article leans a lot towards the alarmist and over the top side. It is true that automation is transforming work, as it has for 200 years. The question about artificial intelligence and related technologies is how quickly it replaces people in cognitive work and skilled work. Please see my answer to this Quora question for more information on what AI and robots are good at and not at. What will be the biggest effect of artificial intelligence on the workforce?

Predictions about the future are said to tend to overestimate the speed of foreseeable change in the short term and to underestimate the magnitude of very large changes in the long term. This principle appears to apply to autonomous vehicles, which operate with 99% reliability in good conditions. That might be good enough for incremental rollout over the next decade, but if I had to bet I'd say truck driver employment in 2030 will be at least 80% of what it is today. Warehouse workers? Massive operations like Amazon will drastically reduce your human workforce. There are tons of smaller warehouses where employees perform a greater variety of tasks that are not easily automated.

In the long run, I agree that we should start thinking about the fundamentals of production and distribution in a highly automated theoretical economy.

The much more pressing questions for the economy in the next decade are transformations due to globalization, demographics, geopolitical competition, the trend toward economic geographic deserts and oases, and the bifurcation of social / educational / skills classes.

First of all, "SOCIETY" does not react. Society is an abstraction with no unified purpose or will. It is a name for relationships between individuals. It is individuals and their groups that have agency (corporations and governments, civic organizations and activists, churches, etc.) who "react."

Yes, we use the term "society reacts." By that, however, I mean an observation of the sum of individual reactions.

However, when you say "should react," you imply a coherence and agency for society that it legitimately does not have.

There is a caveat in my analysis. Social or group pressure and the "group

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First of all, "SOCIETY" does not react. Society is an abstraction with no unified purpose or will. It is a name for relationships between individuals. It is individuals and their groups that have agency (corporations and governments, civic organizations and activists, churches, etc.) who "react."

Yes, we use the term "society reacts." By that, however, I mean an observation of the sum of individual reactions.

However, when you say "should react," you imply a coherence and agency for society that it legitimately does not have.

There is a caveat in my analysis. Peer or peer pressure and "groupthink" can be powerful forces. Those who best manage these forces, such as media specialists and political organizers, are good at getting others to react not individually, but in a way that the media and political activists prefer, because of their influence. Experts of all kinds also try, often less effectively, to participate in such motivated social action.

The #metoo movement is one example.

However, all these forces tend to turn into "mass action" rather quickly, even into "revolution." They have no snake head, no one to negotiate with. They are very bad for society. So by asking the question the way you do, you set society up for failure.

People whose jobs are cut should stop buying things. The message will get out quickly and corporations will fail. They can also vote for politicians who are willing to try to tackle root causes, not just hide and "allow" bad business behavior with tricks like Universal Basic Income.

I think the Vanity Fair article was written to attract the reader's attention. The one decade time frame is too fast for the kinds of serious change that automation can bring about. There has been a sudden change in the past, but the cause was the systemic lockdown of the economic system, not technological advancement.

Searching for data on the web, I came across Why Doesn't Automation Create Unemployment ?, an article that summarizes a more in-depth article: Automation and Jobs: When Technology Drives Employment, both from Boston University School of Law.

The deeper article begins with a simple explanation that specifies

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I think the Vanity Fair article was written to attract the reader's attention. The one decade time frame is too fast for the kinds of serious change that automation can bring about. There has been a sudden change in the past, but the cause was the systemic lockdown of the economic system, not technological advancement.

Searching for data on the web, I came across Why Doesn't Automation Create Unemployment ?, an article that summarizes a more in-depth article: Automation and Jobs: When Technology Drives Employment, both from Boston University School of Law.

The in-depth article begins with a simple explanation that accurately explains the rise and fall of employment in the textile, steel, and automotive industries. The critical factor is the changing nature of the demand. Automation doesn't just reduce the amount of work required to produce, say, a meter of fabric. In a competitive economy, you also lower the price of that fabric or improve its quality. And those changes increase the demand for fabrics. If demand increases sufficiently, employment in the textile industry will grow even though less labor is required per meter of fabric.

In the more distant future, the story could be quite different, and service sector jobs could experience the kind of drops we now see in manufacturing. However, this analysis suggests that as long as the new technology addresses the main unfulfilled wants, it need not generate mass unemployment. However, the challenge for policy makers is to help people acquire the skills necessary to work with new technologies.

Unfortunately, I tend to believe that something like this will happen. I don't see anything being done now that actively addresses the inevitable result of the massive use of (robotic) technological systems taking over the main thorn in the side of business…. workers. They will spend what they have to spend to eliminate as much of the wages, medical and retirement expenses of human workers as possible. It is true that the initial cost of robotic systems is quite high, but companies are used to spending huge sums of money (mostly not their own, but investors' money) to run their business and make a profit. . They H

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Unfortunately, I tend to believe that something like this will happen. I don't see anything being done now that actively addresses the inevitable result of the massive use of (robotic) technological systems taking over the main thorn in the side of business…. workers. They will spend what they have to spend to eliminate as much of the wages, medical and retirement expenses of human workers as possible. It is true that the initial cost of robotic systems is quite high, but companies are used to spending huge sums of money (mostly not their own, but investors' money) to run their business and make a profit. . They have always scoffed at the demand for such expensive items as wages, retirement, medical expenses and others related to the use of human workers.

So yes, it is quite possible that the future will have dire consequences for the average human workforce and life in general.

my 2 cents !!!

I haven't read the article (I will), but it's going to happen.

It won't be pretty either ... we have no idea how to handle the next "job losses" from automation ... hell, we haven't handled the ones that already happened very well.

I've forgotten who the author was, Fred Pohl comes to mind, where automation led to overproduction of clothes so all robots started having to wear clothes and wear them so new clothes wouldn't pile up everywhere .

That would probably lead to a production spiral (demand has increased! We have to make more pants!

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I haven't read the article (I will), but it's going to happen.

It won't be pretty either ... we have no idea how to handle the next "job losses" from automation ... hell, we haven't handled the ones that already happened very well.

I've forgotten who the author was, Fred Pohl comes to mind, where automation led to overproduction of clothes so all robots started having to wear clothes and wear them so new clothes wouldn't pile up everywhere .

That would probably lead to a production spiral (demand has increased! We have to make more pants! Garbage, unsold stock is piling up, we have to make more robots!).

Which leads to the robo-apocalypse of robots making robots. The rebellion of the robot proletariat will be ugly.


I am an engineer. A software engineer, mostly. An agent of change. * I * will find it exciting, but I'm also retired.

While most of the necessary technology is already available, organizing the change may take longer than expected.

I would expect management functions to be more vulnerable than practical jobs because robotics is still more expensive than computing. New companies strongly driven by AI (low number of people) will appear to displace existing companies in sectors such as banking and insurance. Existing players will defend themselves and slow things down.

Smaller countries with better educated populations and socialist perspectives can move faster as they will be better able to handle displaced workers.

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While most of the necessary technology is already available, organizing the change may take longer than expected.

I would expect management functions to be more vulnerable than practical jobs because robotics is still more expensive than computing. New companies strongly driven by AI (low number of people) will appear to displace existing companies in sectors such as banking and insurance. Existing players will defend themselves and slow things down.

Smaller countries with better-educated populations and socialist perspectives can move faster, as they will be able to better handle displaced workers and absorb more international service businesses, for example, Korea, Sweden, etc.

There has already been a massive, massive, massive upheaval when we stopped using horses to transport people and goods.

It is good to eliminate jobs, because in the future there will be better ones.

But people who want fear and write articles about fear of the future ... are they going to buy horses ... or modern vehicles? They keep writing fear whatever happens.

Just like when all the ice cutters, phone operators, and door-to-door salespeople started massive armed movements against refrigerators, electronic switchboards, and department stores. It will be a complete bloodbath.

When technology takes over work, a salary must be paid to employees who lost their jobs until new jobs are available.

Thinking machines will replace most human workers.

This video is an overview.


Jeff Ronne's answer to Is technology eliminating jobs at a faster rate than it is being created?

Computer-assisted robots / humans produce goods and services cheaper / more efficiently than humans alone. In a capitalist system, robots will win, as companies using the technology will dominate the market, as only the most profitable companies survive and grow. World capital flows towards automation and away from investment in human labor simply because automat

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Thinking machines will replace most human workers.

This video is an overview.


Jeff Ronne's answer to Is technology eliminating jobs at a faster rate than it is being created?

Computer-assisted robots / humans produce goods and services cheaper / more efficiently than humans alone. In a capitalist system, robots will win, as companies using the technology will dominate the market, as only the most profitable companies survive and grow. World capital is flowing into automation and away from investment in human labor simply because automation has a better return on investment. This is the turning point economically speaking. The point of no return.

Perfect is the enemy of good

In an engineering / technology business sense it means you don't have to replace the worker with technology. You simply have to make the worker more productive with the technology, using fewer workers in total while increasing economic output. The robot / computer / software works in cooperation with the worker. So in the end, where there used to be 1 million jobs, it drops to 800k, then 500k, then 250k, etc., over time as technology advances. Meanwhile, the production of goods and services increases with lower costs. When economic growth requires fewer people and jobs year after year, you have an insurmountable problem.

This is happening today. That is why we have a "jobless" recovery. Nobody wants to acknowledge the reason. The tendency of technology to replace virtually all workers destroys the model of capitalism. Capitalism assumes that economic production primarily employs people, not machines. Workers derive personal wealth from employment. When most goods and services are produced by machines without human labor, the capitalist model falls apart completely.

Technology is one of the main drivers of growing wealth inequality in the United States and the world. This has created a wealthy class of owners (the 5% who manufacture and own the technology along with the minority who employ) and an increasingly poor class of workers fighting for fewer and fewer low-paying service jobs.

In Silicon Valley there is a relatively small elite economic class of ordinary citizens with a large amount of wealth derived solely from automation (also known as disruptive change / productivity technology, which means that technology means doing more with fewer workers).

As for the argument that productivity technology only affects low-paying jobs, it is false. First, automation is geared precisely toward high-value, high-paying jobs. That's where the money and profits for automation reside. Bill Gates is still the richest person in the world, in part because he automated high-paying office work with Microsoft office and email. Yes, public accountants, business, and finance use Excel as their primary language. What would take a CPA in the 1960s a month to do can be done in an hour today. Most financial software automates the jobs that accountants used to do.

In fact, venture capital and corporate capital invested is deliberately targeting the jobs / industries with the highest costs. It will likely take 100 to perhaps 200 years to completely replace most jobs with technology. It may never be fully completed, leaving perhaps 1% or 10% of the population having to perform the necessary tasks (not work per se, not employment per se because these concepts may cease to exist in the post-capitalist economic model ).

Despite claims to the contrary, this time it is different. We are not talking about horses, trains, assembly lines, etc ... We are talking about smart robots with advanced technology that learn fast with no limit in the end. Robots are general purpose and will do any job better and faster as time goes on. Most human work can be automated with certainty given enough time. As new jobs are created, they will be automated in no time as the training process only happens once for all robots. Unlike humans, who must be expensively trained individually, training one robot is effectively training all robots forever. By comparison, humans are inefficient, dying taking most, if not all, of

The future role of money, taxes and traditional jobs is likely not there as we know it today. These concepts are based on an economic system that will probably no longer exist.

The transition to a jobless economy in which only a small number of robot designers are in paid employment could be extremely problematic. Rising wealth inequality could be inevitable unless we abandon our 19th century economic concepts and move into the 21st century economy.

This article in The Economist from last year provides a valuable overview of the matter. This is becoming a mainstream of new economic thought.

They all owe it to themselves and their families to know personally what the future is likely to hold. The trend of technology and automation is spreading all over the world, no one can escape it in the end, especially future generations.

The wave of avalanche

"Previous technological innovation has always generated more long-term employment, not less. But things can change."

IN 1930, when the world was "suffering ... from a severe bout of economic pessimism," John Maynard Keynes wrote a broadly optimistic essay, "Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren." He envisioned a middle road between revolution and stagnation that would leave such grandchildren much richer than their grandparents. But the road was not without its dangers.

One of the concerns that Keynes admitted was a "new disease": "technological unemployment ... due to our discovery of means to economize the use of labor, outpacing the rate at which we can find new uses for labor ". Your readers may not have heard of the problem, he suggested, but they will surely hear a lot more about it for years to come.

For the most part, they didn't. Today, most economists confidently dismiss those concerns. By increasing productivity, they argue, any automation that economizes on the use of labor will increase revenue. That will generate demand for new products and services, which in turn will create new jobs for displaced workers. Thinking otherwise has meant being a Luddite, the name taken by the textile workers of the 19th century who smashed machines and took away their jobs.

For much of the 20th century, those who argued that technology created increasing jobs and prosperity seemed to get the best out of the debate. Real incomes in Britain barely doubled between the beginning of the Common Era and 1570. Then they tripled between 1570 and 1875. And they more than tripled between 1875 and 1975. Industrialization did not end up eliminating the need for human laborers. On the contrary, it created enough job opportunities to absorb the population explosion of the 20th century. Keynes's vision that everyone in the 2030s will be much richer has largely been achieved. Their belief that they would work only about 15 hours a week has not been fulfilled.

When the sleeper wakes up
However, now some fear that a new era of automation enabled by increasingly powerful and capable computers may work differently. They start from the observation that, throughout the rich world, everything is far from going well in the world of work. The essence of what they see as a jobs crisis is that in rich countries the wages of the typical worker, adjusted for the cost of living, are stagnant. In the United States, real wages have barely moved in the last four decades. Even in places like Britain and Germany, where employment is hitting new highs, wages have been flat for a decade. Recent research suggests this is because the substitution of capital for labor through automation is becoming increasingly attractive; as a result,

At the same time, even in relatively egalitarian places like Sweden, inequality among employees has risen dramatically, and the share of those earning the most has skyrocketed. For those outside the elite, argues David Graeber, an anthropologist at the London School of Economics, much of modern work consists of brutalizing "shit jobs" - that is, sitting at the mid and low level screen that serves. simply to employ workers for whom the economy no longer has much use. Keeping them employed, Mr. Graeber argues, is not an economical option; it is something that the ruling class does to maintain control over the lives of others.

Be that as it may, the monotony may soon give way to outright unemployment. There is already a long-term trend towards lower levels of employment in some rich countries. The proportion of American adults participating in the workforce recently hit its lowest level since 1978, and while part of that is due to the effects of aging, part is not. In a recent speech that was inspired in part by Keynes's "Possibilities," Larry Summers, a former US Treasury Secretary, analyzed employment trends among American men between the ages of 25 and 54. In the 1960s, only one in 20 of those men was not working. According to Summers' extrapolations, in ten years the number could be one in seven.

This is an indication, says Mr. Summers, that technical change is increasingly taking the form of "capital effectively replacing labor." There may be a lot more to do in that capital in the near future. A 2013 article by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of the University of Oxford argued that jobs are at high risk of being automated in 47% of occupational categories in which work is routinely classified. That includes accounting, legal work, technical writing, and many other white-collar occupations.

Answering the question of whether such automation could lead to prolonged pain for workers means taking a close look at past experience, theory, and technology trends. The picture that this evidence suggests is complex. It is also more concerning than many economists and politicians are willing to admit.

The Wheel of Heaven
Economists take the relationship between innovation and higher living standards for granted, in part because they believe that history justifies such a view. Industrialization clearly led to huge increases in income and living standards in the long run. However, the road to riches was more bumpy than is often believed.

In 1500, it was estimated that 75% of the British workforce worked in agriculture. By 1800 that figure had dropped to 35%. When the shift to manufacturing began during the 18th century, most of the time it was done on a small scale, either at home or in a small workshop; employment in a large factory was a rarity. In the late 19th century, large plants in large industrial cities were the norm. The big change was made possible by automation and steam engines.

Industrial companies combined human labor with large and expensive capital equipment. To maximize the output of this expensive machinery, factory owners reorganized production processes. Workers were assigned one or a few repetitive tasks, often making components from finished products rather than whole pieces. Bosses imposed tight schedules and strict discipline on workers to keep up the productive pace. The Industrial Revolution was not simply a matter of replacing muscle with steam; it was about reshaping the jobs themselves into the kind of precisely defined components that steam-powered machinery needed: gears in a factory system.

The way old jobs were done changed; new jobs were created. Joel Mokyr, an economic historian at Northwestern University in Illinois, argues that the more complex machines, techniques, and supply chains of the time required careful attention. The workers who provided such attention were well rewarded. As research by Lawrence Katz of Harvard University and Robert Margo of Boston University shows, manufacturing employment "emptied." As the employment of highly skilled and unskilled workers increased, artisans lost out. This was the loss that the Luddites, understandably, if not effectively, opposed.


With the low-skilled workers far more numerous, at least initially, the lot of the average worker during the early part of this great industrial and social upheaval was not a happy one. As Mr. Mokyr points out, "life did not improve much between 1750 and 1850." For 60 years, from 1770 to 1830, British wage growth, adjusted for inflation, was imperceptible because productivity growth was restricted to a few industries. Until the end of the 19th century, when profits had spread throughout the economy, wages did not finally behave in line with productivity (see figure 1).

Together with social reforms and new political movements that gave workers a voice, this faster wage growth helped spread the benefits of industrialization to broader segments of the population. New investments in education provided a supply of workers for the more skilled jobs that were by then being created in increasing numbers. This change continued into the 20th century as postsecondary education became increasingly common.

Claudia Goldin, an economist at Harvard University, and Mr. Katz have written that workers were in a "race between education and technology" during this period, and for the most part they won. Still, it was not until the "golden age" after World War II that the workers of the rich world ensured real prosperity and a large proprietary middle class came to dominate politics. At the same time, communism, a legacy of the harsh early era of industrialization, kept hundreds of millions of people around the world in poverty, and billions continued to feel the effects of imperialism driven by European industrialization.

The impacts of technological change are slow to appear. They also vary wildly from industry to industry. Although in many simple economic models technology pairs perfectly with capital and labor to produce a product, in practice technological changes do not affect all workers in the same way. Some find that their skills are complementary to new technologies. Others are out of work.

Take the computers. In the early 1900s, a "computer" was a worker, or a workers room, doing mathematical calculations by hand, often with the end point of one person's job as the starting point for the next. The development of mechanical and electronic computing made these arrangements obsolete. But over time, the productivity of those who used the new computers at work increased enormously.

Many other technical innovations had similar effects. The new machinery displaced handicraft producers in numerous industries, from textiles to metallurgy. At the same time, it allowed a production per person far greater than what artisan producers could achieve.

Piano dresser
For a task to be replaced by a machine, it helps a lot if, like the work of human computers, it is already very routine. Hence the disappearance of production line jobs and some types of accounting, lost to the robot and the spreadsheet. Meanwhile, work is less easily broken down into a series of stereotypical tasks, whether it's rewarding, such as managing other workers and teaching young children, or more complicated, such as tidying up and cleaning messy workplaces, it has grown as a share of total employment.

But the "race" aspect of technological change means these workers cannot rest on their pay packages. Companies are constantly experimenting with new technologies and production processes. Experimenting with different techniques and business models requires flexibility, which is a critical advantage of a human worker. However, over time, as best practices are developed and then coded, it becomes easier to break production down into routine components and then automate those components as technology allows.

Yes, that is, automation makes sense. As David Autor, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), points out in a 2013 article, just because a job can be automated doesn't mean it will be; relative costs also matter. When Nissan makes cars in Japan, he notes, it relies heavily on robots. In the Indian plants, by contrast, the company relies more on cheap local labor.

Even when machine capabilities are improving rapidly, it can make sense to seek ever cheaper supplies of increasingly skilled labor. Thus, since the 1980s (a time when the trend toward postsecondary education leveled off in the United States), workers there and elsewhere have faced increased competition from both machines and machines. cheap workers from emerging markets.

These processes have steadily and relentlessly squeezed the labor force out of the manufacturing sector in most rich economies. The share of US employment in manufacturing has fallen dramatically since the 1950s, from nearly 30% to less than 10%. At the same time, jobs in services soared, from less than 50% of employment to almost 70% (see Chart 2). Therefore, it was inevitable that companies began to apply the same experimentation and reorganization to service industries.

A new wave of technological progress can dramatically accelerate this automation of brain work. There is growing evidence that rapid technological progress, which represented the long era of rapid productivity growth from the 19th century to the 1970s, is making a comeback. The kind of advancements that allow people to pocket a computer that is not only more powerful than any other in the world 20 years ago, but also has far better software and far greater access to useful data, as well as to other people and machines, they have implications for all kinds of work.

Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, professors at MIT, defend a period of highly disruptive economic growth in "The Second Machine Age," a book to be published later this month. Like the first great era of industrialization, they argue, it should bring huge profits, but not without a period of disorienting and uncomfortable change. Their argument is based on an underrated aspect of exponential growth in chip processing speed, memory capacity, and other computing metrics: that the amount of progress computers will make in the next few years is always equal to the progress they have made. From the beginning.

A surprising progression of inventions seems to confirm his thesis. Ten years ago, tech-minded economists pointed out that driving cars in traffic was the kind of human achievement that computers were highly unlikely to dominate. Now that Google cars are rolling through California without drivers, no one doubts that such dominance is possible, although the speed at which fully autonomous cars will hit the market remains hard to guess.

Brave new world
Even after computers beat the grandmasters at chess (it was once thought highly unlikely), no one thought they could take on people in free-form games played in natural language. So Watson, a pattern recognition supercomputer developed by IBM, out-performed the best human competitors in America's popular and syntactically misleading general knowledge quiz show "Jeopardy!" Watson's versions are being marketed to companies in a variety of industries to help with all kinds of pattern recognition problems. Your insight will increase and your costs will decrease as companies learn to harness your capabilities.

Machines are not only smarter, they also have access to much more data. The combination of big data and smart machines will take over some wholesale occupations; in others, it will allow companies to do more with fewer workers. Text mining programs will crowd out professional jobs in legal services. Image processing software will analyze biopsies more efficiently than lab technicians. Accountants can follow travel agents and cashiers to the unemployment line as tax software improves. The machines are already turning basic sports scores and financial data into good enough news.

Jobs that are not easily automated can be transformed. New data processing technology could break down "cognitive" jobs into smaller and smaller tasks. In addition to paving the way for eventual automation, this could reduce the satisfaction of such work, just as the satisfaction of getting things done was reduced by disqualification and interchangeable parts in the 19th century. If these jobs persist, they may trigger Mr. Graeber's "bullshit" detector.

Being able to do brain work recently will not prevent computers from doing previously manual work; It will make them better at it. The designers of the latest generation of industrial robots say their creations help workers rather than replace them; But there is little doubt that technology will be able to do a little of both, probably more than a little. A taxi driver will be a rarity in many places by the 2030s or 2040s. That sounds like bad news for journalists who depend on the most trusted source of local knowledge and prejudice, but will there be many journalists who care? Will there be airline pilots? Or traffic cops? Or soldiers?


There will still be jobs. Even Frey and Osborne, whose research suggests that 47% of job categories will be open to automation within two decades, accept that some jobs, especially those currently associated with high levels of education and high wages, will survive (see table) . Tyler Cowen, a George Mason University economist and widely read blogger, writes in his most recent book, "The Average Is Over," that rich economies appear to be forking into a small group of workers with skills highly complementary to intelligence. of the machines, for those who have high hopes, and the rest, for those who do not.

And while Brynjolfsson and McAfee rightly point out that developing business models that make the best use of new technologies will involve trial and error and human flexibility, it is also the case that the second age of machines will facilitate that kind of testing and error. It will be surprisingly easy to launch a startup, bring a new product to market, and sell it to billions of global consumers (see article). Those who create or invest in highly successful ideas can achieve unprecedented returns.

In a forthcoming book, Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, argues along similar lines that the United States may pioneer a hyper-unequal economic model in which the top 1% of capital owners and "Supermanagers" seize an increasing share of national income and accumulate an increasing concentration of national wealth. The rise of the middle class, an innovation of the 20th century, was a political and social development of enormous importance throughout the world. Squeezing out of that class could lead to a more antagonistic, unstable, and potentially dangerous politics.
The potential for dramatic change is clear. A future of widespread tech unemployment is harder for many to accept. Every great period of innovation has produced its share of job market doomsayers, but technological progress has never before failed to generate new job opportunities.

The productivity gains from future automation will be real, even if they mostly fall to the machine owners. Some will be spent on goods and services (golf instructors, home help, etc.) and most of the remainder will be invested in companies looking to expand and presumably hire more labor. Although inequality could increase in such a world, unemployment would not necessarily increase. The current stagnation of wages may, like that of the early industrial era, be a temporary affair, and the good times are about to arrive (see figure 3).

These jobs may look distinctly different from the ones they replace. Just as past mechanization freed or forced workers to perform jobs that required more cognitive dexterity, leaps in machine intelligence could create space for people to specialize in more emotional occupations, which are not yet suitable for occupations. machines: a world of artists and therapists, love counselors and yoga. instructors.

Such emotional and relational work could be as critical to the future as hitting metals was in the past, even if it receives little respect at first. Cultural norms change slowly. Manufacturing jobs are still often treated as "better", in some vague and non-pecuniary way, than paper pushing. For some observers of the 18th century, working in the fields was inherently nobler than making trinkets.

But while growth in areas of the economy that are not easily automated creates jobs, it doesn't necessarily help real wages. Mr. Summers notes that the prices of things made with widgets have fallen markedly in recent decades; The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that today you could get the equivalent of a television from the early 1980s for a score of its then price, if it weren't for the fact that such poor televisions are not yet made. However, the prices of things that aren't made of widgets, especially college education and healthcare, have skyrocketed. If people lived only on gadgets, goods whose costs have fallen due to both globalization and technology,

So technological progress reduces some income in the short run before making everyone richer in the long run, and it can drive up the costs of some things even more than it eventually increases profits. As innovation continues, automation can also cut costs in some of those difficult areas, although those dominated by scarcity, such as houses in desirable locations, are likely to buck the trend, as are those in which the state keeps market forces at bay. But if innovation makes health care or higher education cheaper, it will likely come at the cost of more jobs and lead to an even greater concentration of income.


The Machine Stalls
Even if the long-term outlook is rosy, with the potential for greater wealth and lots of new jobs, that doesn't mean lawmakers should just sit on your hands in the meantime. Adapting to earlier waves of progress was based on political and political responses. The most obvious are the massive improvements in educational attainment brought about first by the institution of universal secondary education and then by increased college attendance. Policies aimed at similar benefits now appear to be in order. But as Cowen has pointed out, the achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries will be difficult to duplicate.

Boosting the skills and purchasing power of the children of 19th-century farmers and workers required little more than offering schools where they could learn to read, write, and do algebra. Driving a large proportion of college graduates to complete graduate work successfully will be more difficult and expensive. Perhaps cheap and innovative online education will make a new achievement possible. But, as Mr. Cowen points out, these programs can tend to pay off only to the most conscientious students.

Another way in which prior adaptation is not necessarily a good guide to future employment is the existence of well-being. The alternative to joining the industrial proletariat of the 19th century was malnutrition. Today, due to measures introduced in response to industrialization and, to some extent, on the income from industrialization, people in the developed world receive unemployment benefits, disability benefits and other forms of welfare. They are also much more likely to have savings than a peasant of yesteryear. This means that the “reservation wage,” the wage below which a worker does not accept a job, is now historically high. If governments refuse to allow unemployed workers to fall too below the average standard of living,

Everyone should be able to benefit from productivity gains; in that, Keynes was attached to his successors. His concern with technological unemployment was primarily a concern about a "temporary phase of mismatch" as society and the economy adjusted to ever-increasing levels of productivity. So you might as well give it a try. However, society can be put to a severe test if, as seems possible, growth and innovation bring significant benefits to the skilled, while the rest cling to dwindling job opportunities with stagnant wages.

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