BY OREN CASS
SPECIAL TO THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
PUBLISHED ON DECEMBER 28, 2018
Robots and artificial intelligence are winning our jobs and an apocalypse is upon us, or so the employment horror story goes.
Innovation and automation are nothing new, nor is the fear they inspire. What’s changed is the interests of economists and policymakers who once tried to reassure anxious workers but now, after presiding over decades of labor market decline, are delighted to have a scapegoat. So we hear that the abandonment of the American workforce has been the unavoidable result of irresistible forces, the collateral damage of progress. And with those explanations come dire warnings for the future: Jobs will vanish, human workers will be rendered obsolete, reliance on a government check will become the norm.
It’s not true. Technology isn’t the culprit behind job loss, nor will it be. To the contrary, robots can be workers’ best friends. The abandonment of the American worker, instead, has been a conscious choice on the part of policymakers. And while that’s depressing, to be sure, it is also cause for hope. If bad choices are creating our employment challenges, better choices can solve them. The future of work is within our control, and technology is part of the solution, not the problem.
Getting comfortable with technology begins with understanding productivity, the measure of how much a worker can produce in some period of time. Imagine a widget factory in which 10 people each produce one widget each day. If the workers’ productivity doubles, each can make two widgets daily, and five workers can now make what once required 10. Did that improvement “destroy” five jobs? Read more…