Fairly Recently: Must- and Should-Reads, and Writings... (December 17, 2019)

Christopher Pissarides: Why Worry About Automation? https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/digital-automation-impact-on-jobs-poverty-inequality-by-christopher-pissarides-2019-11: 'The impact of today’s digital technologies on the labor market raises three questions. Will there be enough jobs for workers to do? Where will these jobs be? And will the compensation be high enough to avoid an increase in poverty and inequality?... Fear of technological unemployment persists because it is rooted in uncertainty about new job creation. New machines’ capabilities enable us to identify the jobs at risk, but not the jobs yet to emerge.... The challenge that all new technologies pose is not that they create too few jobs, but rather that too few workers have the skills to fill them.... The jobs threatened in the early stages of robotics and artificial intelligence were routine or relied on processing data. Moving big boxes in warehouses, or loading agricultural produce onto trucks, was easily mechanized. Data-processing jobs could be carried out by AI software; a search engine and a few key words could easily replace a paralegal who searches court records for relevant precedents. These properties led to the polarization of employment, challenging workers to shift to jobs that were either complementary to the new technologies, such as computer programming or robotics, or to jobs that could not be programmed, such as management consultancy or nursing care.... The sectoral employment transition is easier where the educational system teaches a broad range of skills, rather than encouraging specialization from an early age, and where flexible labor markets have good retraining facilities. Access to finance also is essential in facilitating the transition.... The third question, about inequality, is more difficult to address. Economics is good at providing unambiguous answers to questions about the efficiency of labor markets. The question of inequality, by contrast, is partly about political choices.... The key question, however, should not be whether some people become very rich, but whether the wages of lower-skill people are sufficiently high to avoid poverty.... Companies in the digital era have a choice: They can use technology to substitute capital for labor and keep wages low, or use technology for the good of their workers with a view to longer-term profits...

#noted #2019-12-18