Automation and Displacement: The Economic Fears of AI

Hollywood and modern media have taken creative philosophical license in promoting either the benefits and/or dangers of automation. However, from an economic point of view, there are some who are grumbling about the potential impact of AI, displacing millions of people into unemployment and into other safety net programs that strike fear into the heart of fiscal and monetary architects. I half-grumble about this. But, I also see some hope, a path to the improvement of well-being.

While investment in AI in the past 5 years has been staggering, there has been little talk of investment into reforming the way human capital is formed as AI seeks to automate mindless and boring tasks. Some believe, even Nobel Prize winning economists, like Paul Krugman, that all will be well in the universe and some unknown new glob of markets will emerge to adjust to the new reality. I think that is terribly optimistic. Automation is different this time, because of the advances in hardware and algorithms that are more closely attempting to mimic human perception -- and eventually towards mimicking human judgment.

If we are really going to talk about the benefits and promise of automation, we also need to have meaningful discussions about reskilling the workforce so it can participate in the new economy versus becoming a victim of it. Otherwise, why do any of this?

Author - Mykel G. Larson