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A few weeks ago, I wrote a column that outlined the worries of big thinkers such as Stephen Hawking and Andrew Yang who are predicting a wave of job destruction caused by automation, robots and artificial intelligence.

Michael Mandel begs to differ. Mandel is chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute. He and Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics LLC, just completed a study for the Tech CEO Council that foresees a rather bright economic future brought about by technological innovation.

I recently interviewed Mandel and he made a compelling argument that the application of technology to the physical economy will, in time, produce more jobs, higher wages, greater productivity and all kinds of as-yet-unimagined business activity. The two doomsday narratives that are currently circulating — that robots will steal jobs and that productivity will lag more or less permanently — are as wrong as the 19th century fears that electrification would put people out of work, Mandel said.

 

His examples:

Mandel pointed out that this is already happening in two areas. The first is fracking. Technological innovations have enabled extraction companies to access heretofore unreachable energy reserves and, though this progress comes with a controversial environmental cost, there is no question fracking has created good-paying jobs and enhanced economic activity.

The second is e-commerce. Beyond the digital component, e-commerce is about getting physical products shipped and delivered and the result is jobs for a lot more folks than just those who write computer code. Mandel points to Kentucky, where the big rise in e-commerce employment is transforming the state’s economy. It is an early example, he said, that the blessings of technology are “breaking out of the digital ghetto of the coastal states.”

Hardly the examples that would really address the issues raised by the naysayers. The trouble with the pro-lobby is that they really don’t know where, what or how any improvements may take place.

Second, AI and robotic utilisation of AI is different to electricity etc. As such the potential downside to AI and robots cannot be fully seen either.

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