A group of economists, tech entrepreneurs, and academics discuss whether technological advances will automate tasks more quickly than the United States can create jobs.
The topic of job displacement has, throughout US history, ignited frustration over technological advances and their tendency to make traditional jobs obsolete; artisans protested textile mills in the early 19th century, for example. In recent years, start-ups and the high-tech industry have become the focus of this discussion. A recent Pew Research Center study found that technology experts are almost evenly split on whether robots and artificial intelligence will displace a significant number of jobs over the next decade, so there is plenty of room for debate.
What follows is an edited transcript plus video clips of a conversation on this topic, moderated by McKinsey Global Institute partner Michael Chui and MGI director James Manyika. The participants were Martin Baily, senior fellow, economic studies, Brookings Institution; Richard Cooper, Maurits C. Boas Professor of International Economics, Harvard University; Curtis Carlson, former president and CEO, SRI International; Reid Hoffman, partner, Greylock; Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO, O’Reilly Media; Matt Slaughter, associate dean of faculty, Tuck School of Business; Laura Tyson, professor of business administration and economics, Haas Business and Public Policy Group, University of California, Berkeley; and Vivek Wadhwa, fellow, Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University.
Rethinking job creation
Tim O’Reilly: There’s this wonderful line from William Gibson, the science-fiction writer. He said, “The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” So, yes, there’s all kinds of science-fiction things that we can imagine in the future. But we can also just look around and see what is happening today and then extrapolate forward.
Reid Hoffman: If you look at most of the automation, it comes down to man–machine combinations. And all productivity means is that when you have productivity increases, each person is doing more. And therefore, the unit—the number of people to do this amount of work—goes down, right? But that then creates resources for doing other work. The most simple one was the transformation from an agricultural economy. We used to have a huge percentage—James Manyika: Forty-one percent of employment, right? Read the rest of this entry »