"Innovation + Equality“

How to create a future that is more Star Trek than the Terminator

Joshua Gans & Andrew Leigh

"Austrian-born Economist Joseph Schumpeter did not suffer from excessive modesty. At the end of his life, he told his friends that he had set himself three life goals: to be the greatest lover in Vienna, the best horseman in Austria, and the world's top economist. He said that he had attained two of these three goals--but wouldn't disclose which ones."

According to Schumpeter, "the price of progress falls into two broad categories: the price paid to get creation and the price paid in terms of destruction."

"The creation price arises when the wealth of society is allocated to those who were the drivers of progress and away from those who are not. The people who drive progress need an appropriate reward for their efforts. Whatever remains should be allocated to others."

"The destruction price focuses on the costs that arise when innovations and new technologies are introduced into the economy. Critically, the people who feel the costs are frequently different than those who received the benefits. The destruction price can be disproportionately borne by those who are already vulnerable and who do not enjoy the gains in creation."

"This is why and are intertwined. If our system involves those who create being rewarded for their efforts, then we must ensure that some of those rewards come back to those who are harmed by new innovations. Both prices must be financed out of the rewards."

typically involves two stages: exploration and exploitation.

"[David] Autor and coauthors have looked at job change by dividing jobs into three categories: manual, routine, and abstract."

"Routine jobs are occupations such as data entry, administrative support, and repetitive manufacturing tasks... what makes routine jobs vulnerable to computerization is that they involve following established rules. "Put the tape in the recorder. Type up the letter. Save and print." Or, "Scan the customer's order. Take their payment.""

"By contrast, abstract jobs involve problem solving, creativity, and teamwork. When a lawyer advises a client whether to accept a plea bargain or a manager decides how to respond to an employee arriving late for work, they are tackling problems that do not have a closed-form solution. It is unlikely that computers will replace the work presently done by artists, veterinarians, merchant bankers, architects, physicians, professors, or politicians - at least until the singularity comes along."

"More interesting is the resilience of manual jobs to computerization. Despite the predictions of science fiction - from Star Wars to The Jetsons - attempts to automate the work of jobs such as cooking, cleaning, security work, and personal care have largely failed."

"In any analysis of advanced country , it's clear that trade and immigration play second fiddle to technological forces. One statistic that sums this up is that over the period 1995 to 2005, the United States lost 3 million manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, China lost over 10 million manufacturing jobs."

"During those years, technological advances cost over three times as many Chinese jobs as us ones. As Harvard's Larry Katz encapsulates the impact of globalization versus innovation, "Over the long haul, clearly automation's been much more important - it's not even close."“

"Moreover, whether a job will actually be depends not just on its characteristics but on the relative cost of people and machines. The day that someone invents a superrobot that can do your job is not the day you get fired. You'll keep your job if renting the machine cost more than paying your salary. Even if the machine is cheaper, you may keep your job just because customers prefer dealing with a real person. Do you want to put your child into the first robot-run daycare center?"

"Put yourself back in the year 2000, and imagine you had to forecast what would happen in the US labor market in the coming decades. Maybe you would predict a fall in the number of lighthouse keepers and level crossing attendants. But would you have anticipated the rise of app developers, data miners, and social media managers? In practice, it's invariably easier to pinpoint the sectors where jobs will be lost than those in which new positions will be created.“

"One of the hardest things to know about technological change is the way it may create new job openings. When we replaced human lift operators with automatic elevators, it suddenly became much more affordable to build skyscrapers - creating thousands more openings for construction workers. When we replaced horses with cars, our city streets stop being filled with manure, which was not only good for public health, but also for street vendors and open-air restaurants."

"Since then, most of the job creation has occurred in urban areas. Similarly, one of the toughest things to know about driverless cars is how they might create new jobs as they reshape logistics, reduce congestion, and transform the commuter experience."

"Growing up in the 1970s, we watched far too many television shows about superheroes. For hours we followed the exploits of figures such as Wonder Woman, Superman, Spider-Man, and the Hulk... yet it's worth thinking for a moment about what the superheroes would do for a job in today's labor market... In today's labor market strength is less important than ever."

...which is why Dianna is an antiquities curator, Clark and Peter are journalists, and Bruce is a scientist.

"Part of the problem is that there are massive returns to being the best. If you're a consumer choosing a free product, who wants to use the second best social network, the second best search engine, or the second best shopping marketplace? In traditional Industries, powerful firms sometimes the amassed marketshare by making it hard for customers to switch. For firms such as Google and Amazon, it is the very ease with which customers can switch that allowed them to dominate their Industries."

"Across advanced nations, [researchers at the OECD] find that since the start of the century, "frontier firms" have enjoyed productivity growth of 3 to 4% annually, "laggard firms" have experienced productivity growth around half a percent per year. The gap is particularly pronounced in sectors with large barriers to entry as in Industries where "winner-takes-all" dynamics dominate competition."

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Hey, sounds sweet to me — just as long as Kirk doesn't try to put the moves on my wife.

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