Solving Interesting Problems

Some points I learned from watching “EAC Panel on AI and Jobs” on YouTube.

  • The trend of hollowing of the “middle paying” jobs is real. One prominent example is the manufacturing sector where output has been increasing while employment has been decreasing.
  • American middle class has been built largely on repetitive work, either physically or cognitively.
  • The primary contributing factor for the divergence of the manufacturing output and employment trends is computerization/automation.
  • Labor force flexibility + economic growth + “downward mobility” generally has mitigated mass unemployment to some degree
  • Computers, robots, artificial intelligence are powerful tools that will make us wealthier and more productive. The challenge right now is how to equitably distribute the wealth generated by the tools.
  • Higher productivity from the use of technology and automation can have a significant impact on human activities. Human beings are hard-wired to want to be productive. As we automate more, we need to figure out how human beings can spend their time productively.
  • We have very little basic economic research on the nature-of-work or future-of-job topic. We need to do more in order to understand the ramifications better.
  • We have developed an interesting working relationship with automation. When the automation develops a bug, we carefully troubleshoot and spend the time to upgrade/improve the machine. When people develop “a bug,” we simply fire the people.
  • In addition to economic growth, we also need to think about maintaining the safety net for the people in society. Right now much of our safety nets (insurance and retirement benefits) are way too tied to whether we are having a classic industrial era job.
  • We have a poor revenue model for investing in infrastructure initiatives. Infrastructure improvements can promote economic growth, and economic growth solves a host of problems we are facing.

Finally,

  • There are many complex phenomena going on that impact the labor picture, and it is simply not prudent to try to explain all these undercurrents with just one simple cause-and-effect relationship.
  • As a society, we have no shortage of work to be done for the benefit of all people. We are also wealthy enough to be able to tackle many of the work that needs to be done. We need to work with each other more than ever to solve many of these interesting, and impactful, problems together.
  • Don’t stop innovating!
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