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David Autor in Zurich on automation and much more

Good talk by David Autor “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The Past and Future of Workplace Automation”:

Most job tasks, most activities, involve a panoply of skills. Brains and brawn. Technical expertise and expert judgment. Or “perspiration and inspiration”, in the words of Mark Twain. In general, all of these tasks need to be done to accomplish the work. So eliminating one set of them doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to do and in economic terms, automating a subset of the tasks increases the economic value of what’s remaining. It complements those workers. (link)

He also ventures into the marriage market, unequal child investment (the Trump family gets a laugh) and even artificial intelligence and the technological singularity.

Fundamentally, when we’re concerned about automation we’re talking about a concern about rising productivity, right? We’re not talking about shielding ourselves from a bomb that’s falling onto our city. The bomb is exploding productivity. It’s that we’re actually being able to do more and more with less. That may create a distributional problem, as I’ve highlighted in this talk. But it doesn’t create a wealth problem. It means we have lots and lots of wealth. (link)

A question/statement by Joel Mokyr prompts this:

In the West we’re hedged on both sides […]: If it doesn’t work out, we still have jobs. If it does work out, we own the machines. (link)