Some time ago the PitchMe team attended a lecture given by the Nobel prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz. The topic of that talk was particularly interesting for us, since Stiglitz addressed the issues of artificial intelligence, robotisation of labour markets and how it all might affect unemployment rates across the world.
AI and its implications for the labour market have been hitting news headlines for a while now, yet there is still a lot of confusion about the topic. Listening to one of the greatest minds in the world talking about the future of labour was a very inspiring and insightful experience. I recently found the notes I made during that lecture and decided to share some of Stiglitz’s main arguments.
🤖AI did not cause any revolution on the labour market. The real revolution happened 250 years ago
According to Stiglitz, AI does not pose any new challenges to humanity. The problems stemming from AI are the same as the problems caused by globalisation—structural changes of labour and production markets. These changes should have been addressed decades ago.
🤖It is important to distinguish between “the machines that will replace humans” and “the machines that will be assisting humans”
The discussions about AI all too often focus on the fears that one day humans will replaced by machines. This is a very primitive understanding of the changes that can be brought about by spreading of AI and machine learning. The correct way of thinking about the matter, according to Stiglitz, is to allow the possibility that machines will also be able ‘to augment our ability to do things’. Skilled professionals will be able to use AI for assistance with monotonous routine tasks. This means that experts will have more time and mental capacity for more important and creative things.
🤖Only 30 or 40% of jobs might be affected by the AI and robotisation of workspace
Jobs requiring low qualifications will be most affected by robotisation of workspace. Stiglitz claims that truck drivers are among those whose jobs would be at risk of being made redundant . Once self-driving cars become mainstream, it will only be a matter of time (which is quickly approaching ) until technology is applied to transportation and logistics.
🤖AI does not develop as fast as it actually could. Because of humans
Humans are naturally biased towards technology. We tend to rely more on other human beings and hold prejudice towards AI. Take the news about road traffic accidents—we pay way far more attention to accidents involving flawed technologies rather than the far more widespread and pressing human-related accidents. But statistically speaking, humans are actually less reliable than machines.
🤖New technologies will boost productivity
Advanced technologies will inevitably lead to increases in productivity and efficiency of human activity. The tricky part is that it does not mean the labour market will grow as well. According to Stiglitz, this can lead to a situation where business owners invest in robotisation to increase their profits whilst workers are affected by low wages and unemployment. In order to understand this problem better, Stiglitz suggests imagining a pie. If there is a bigger pie on a plate, it does not mean that everybody gets a bigger piece of that pie. Actually, it all comes down to the question, ‘Who is going to be dividing this pie?’
🤖Forget about ‘the American dream’
There is no such thing as ‘the American dream’ where everybody gets equal chances and opportunities. Young people mostly depend on the income of their parents. Stiglitz claims that the most important thing one can do in his or her life in order to be successful, is to choose the right parents. ‘If you messed up, it’s over’, he claims.
🤖Having no skills means end of the deal
Robotisation will lead to decreases in demand for unskilled workers. This means that if you are not skilled enough, you will probably have to choose between low wage and unemployment, or to gain the skills you are lacking. According to Stiglitz, due to the pace of innovation increases, in order to be successful in the future, people would have to invest in life-long learning and to reinvent themselves again and again.
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