Posts Under: workforce

Larry Summers Trashes a Robot Tax and Calls for Active Government Role to Deal with Structural Unemployment

Former Harvard University President and U.S. Treasury Secretary recently demolished the idea of a robot tax and also issued a ringing endorsement of an activist government role to manage the impact of artificial intelligence on the labor market and on society. 

more

An Idea Whose Time is Coming

Benoit Hamon, the French Socialist Party candidate chosen by primary voters this week, has a plan.  He wants to provide everyone in France with a basic income.  The idea has been around for generations.  Why now?  Because Hamon thinks robots are coming for our jobs and we’re going to need to share the wealth they create. U.S. companies and entrepreneurs are flirting with the idea as well. If advanced artificial intelligence can really replace workers at all skill levels, then there might not be enough work to go around.  Brynjolffson and McAfee warn that education and skills training might not keep pace with rapidly advancing technological change – by the time workers learned new skills they would already be made obsolete by the evolution of smart machines. Of course, this hasn’t really happened up to now.  Automation and computer technology have created more jobs than they destroy. When companies introduce automation, it cheapens t ...

more

America Needs to Embrace Automation

On Wednesday, the New York Times’ Farhad Manjoo released an article titled, “How to Make America’s Robots Great Again” which discusses how to revitalize America’s manufacturing sector through the increased use of robots.   It is true that robots have replaced workers in many manufacturing jobs, but  embracing automation has the potential to be beneficial to workers and the economy.  While automation has caused some displacement, many manufacturers are still hiring.  However, these jobs require new and different skills, and many workers are not currently trained to interact with machines in the way that augments their skills and maximizes automation’s potential.  According to a Deloitte study, roughly 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled because of this skills gap.  One of the reasons for this, according to companies, is that education and training systems have not kept up with the evolving needs of indu ...

more

McKinsey Global Institute Releases Report on Automation and Work

Yesterday, the McKinsey Global Institute released a new report called, “Harnessing Automation for a Future that Works.” This report comes after SIIA released its own report titled, “Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Work” which touches on many of the same issues.  Similar to the SIIA report, it found that the adoption of automation carries significant benefits that outweigh the costs. In 2013, two Oxford economists estimated that occupations accounting for 47% of all U.S. employment were at risk of automation.  The McKinsey report states that more accurate assessment of the impact of automation on work is by looking at the impact by activity rather than the entire occupation.  By its assessment, only less than 5% of occupations can be fully automated with today’s technology.  Though, looking at automation via activity instead of by occupation, roughly half of all activities worldwide could be automated, totaling roughly $16 t ...

more

"Hidden Figures:" A Great Story on Jobs as well as Civil Rights

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a screening of 21st Century Fox’s “Hidden Figures.”  This is a great movie about the critical contributions made by three African-American women – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson -  to put John Glenn into space in the early 1960s.  The movie depicts the struggles these women faced to be treated equally as the consummate professionals they were at a time when the state of Virginia still enforced segregation laws.  It is a wonderful and uplifting story about a mostly unexplored but important dimension of American history.  Go see it! There is an interesting sub-plot to the movie, which has to do with the usually somewhat dry – at least on the big screen -  topic of automation and jobs.  Johnson, Vaughn and Jackson were hired by NASA to be human “computers.”  Part of Johnson’s job was to calculate John Glenn’s exact landing zone in ...

more

Automation Often Creates Jobs – Just Ask Bank Tellers

The labor economist David Autor opens a recent TED talk with a startling fact: in the 45 years since the introduction of the Automatic Teller Machine, bank teller jobs have roughly doubled, from a quarter of a million to half a million. Since 2000, financial institutions have created 100,000 new bank teller jobs.  

more

The Universal Basic Income Drumbeat Continues

In his latest column, The New Yorker’s Financial Page writer, James Surowiecki makes the Case for Free Money. Why, he asks, don’t we have universal basic income?  It may be, he thinks, “an idea whose time has come.” He notes that the work disincentive under a universal basic income is mild – in Canada’s Manitoba experiment in the 1970s working hours for men dropped only 1%.  Other measures of well-being improved markedly. Teenagers stayed in school and hospitalization rates declined. So what’s not to like?

more