Last week I discussed a recent Pew Research report on the impact of AI, robotics and other advanced technologies on the future of jobs. The report was based on the responses of nearly 1,900 experts to a few open-ended questions, including “Will networked, automated, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and robotic devices have displaced more jobs than they have created by 2025?” The expert’s responses to this question where divided down the middle.
Beyond predictions based on responses to a survey, can one develop an overall framework to help analyze these critical issues? Along this line, I like a recent paper by MIT economist David Autor, - Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth. The paper was presented at the annual Jackson Hole Federal Reserve symposium, a gathering of some of the world’s most prominent central bankers, finance experts and academics, where the theme this year was “Re-evaluating Labor Market Dynamics”. The paper carefully laid out its arguments based on existing empirical evidence. Let me summarize its key points.
Computers have made huge advances in automating many physical and cognitive human tasks, especially those tasks that can be well described by a set of rules. But, Professor Autor argues, despite continuing advances in AI and robotics, the “challenges to substituting machines for workers in tasks requiring flexibility, judgment, and common sense remain immense.”