Sunday, January 8, 2017

David Autor at TED - Best Presentation On How Automation Will Affect The Future of Jobs

This is the best presentation that I have ever seen on how automation will affect future jobs.  (Thanks Ian for passing along this presentation!) This is unlike the classic Luddite gloom and doom scenario on progress, such as Catherine Clifford writes on CNBC in November on Elon Musk's views:

"Computers, intelligent machines, and robots seem like the workforce of the future. And as more and more jobs are replaced by technology, people will have less work to do and ultimately will be sustained by payments from the government, predicts Elon Musk, the iconic Silicon Valley futurist who is the founder and CEO of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX."

We have heard these predictions many times before in history.

I especially like his O-ring principle and never-get-enough principle.  Below is from the transcript in couple of minutes into his talk. 

He starts off asking an counter-intuitive question:

"Here's a startling fact: in the 45 years since the introduction of the automated teller machine, those vending machines that dispense cash, the number of human bank tellers employed in the United States has roughly doubled, from about a quarter of a million to a half a million. A quarter of a million in 1970 to about a half a million today, with 100,000 added since the year 2000."

He then lays out the framework for the answer:

"Why are there so many jobs? There are actually two fundamental economic principles at stake. One has to do with human genius and creativity. The other has to do with human insatiability, or greed, if you like. I'm going to call the first of these the O-ring principle, and it determines the type of work that we do. The second principle is the never-get-enough principle, and it determines how many jobs there actually are."

Mr. Autor does a great job answering the important questions, quantifying the data and providing the best model in terms of how to think about how automation will affect the future of jobs for carbon based units (humans :-)