A copy of the full analysis can be downloaded by clicking on the link at the bottom of this blog entry.
The purpose of this series of analyses has been to better understand the extent to which future jobs in the US will be complemented by or substituted for technology and automation.
Summary of Analysis So Far
In Part 1, I established that there are two perspectives on the impact of new technologies on future labor markets:
• The “This Time Is No Different” view suggests that based on what has always happened in the past, we can expect new technologies in the future to eventually create more jobs than they eliminate.
• The “This Time Is Different” view suggests that further improvements in technology will further exacerbate the current trend toward a bifurcation of society, eventually resulting in an unskilled lower class and a skilled upper class.
In Part 2, I established that the circumstances that characterize the current global economic environment are unique. To briefly summarize, the current environment is global in nature, currently in the midst of a severe recession as well as a long-term state of transition as society adapts to new technologies, and actions undertaken by players (businesses, policymakers, etc.) will have an impact on other players globally. Since the current economic environment is different from those that existed in the past, any generalizations that attempt to project past experiences into the future must be carefully considered.
In Part 3, I compared jobs counts by detailed occupation categories in 1940 to those in 2013, and I established that new technologies have:
• Eliminated many jobs by substituting technology for human labor,
• Created new jobs by creating demand for new types of human labor, and
• Changed the nature of many jobs by complementing human labor.
In Part 4, I established that computers can perform any cognitive or manual tasks that can be clearly defined and specified by a set of rules. On the other hand, computers cannot perform tasks for which data inputs and/or outputs are not well-defined or cannot be fully pre-specified. Such tasks involve (i) solving unstructured problems, (ii) working with new Information, or (iii) performing non-routine manual tasks. Alternatively described, computers do not possess the ability to (i) be creative or form new ideas, (ii) recognize large-frame patterns, (iii) engage in or with complex communications, or (iv) perform tasks requiring sensorimotor skills.
The Future of Jobs
I can use Part 3 job comparisons, together with Part 4 restrictions on what automation can and cannot do, to provide some indication as to how new technologies might affect the future of jobs. However, Part 2 suggests that since the current environment is unique, I must be careful about using past experiences to predict the future. To the extent that the predictions about the future gleaned from Parts 3 and 4 suggest This Time Is No Different, do the forces furthering this conclusion transcend the forces causing the current environment to be unique with respect to past environments?