« Freakonomics Radio

461. How to Stop Worrying and Love the Robot Apocalypse

2021-05-06 | 🔗

It’s true that robots (and other smart technologies) will kill many jobs. It may also be true that newer collaborative robots (“cobots”) will totally reinvigorate how work gets done. That, at least, is what the economists are telling us. Should we believe them?

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Economics radio sponsored by discover earning cash back on your purchases is great but discover, will do you one better at the end of your first year, disk We will actually match all the cash back you burned on your credit card lettering, discover ashes, all the cash back you earn on your credit card at the end of your first year. This is especially amazing, because Discover is accepted that ninety nine percent of places in the- U S, that take credit cards, learn more at discover. Dot com, slash Twenty twenty one Nilsen report limitations apply. In our previous episode, we looked at the benefits and costs of when the most contentious economic policies around. Just these really bear knuckles arguments bear knuckle.
The arguments about whether the EU should raise the federal minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour. There is a constant back and forth where Democrats point to the fact that people simply cannot live on the minimum wage and Republicans point dad. All sorts of people will lose their jobs because employers won't want to hire people at that higher wage. Even economists don't know the right answer. I think we know, a actual. We don't know agreed after digging into the issue is deeply as we could. We reached a surprising conclusion: it's like a big fight over what is really not that transformative. Policy, so fifteen dollar wage is just not that transformative policy thanks for wasting our time. Economists, but this digging did lead us to something that may be truly
transformative we are in our infancy of adopting certain robots. So the tab that conversation about robot adoption and the labour markets. We might as well start with an economist. No, I'm not even a real economists status play one at MIT, its David Otter. I started then under Colombia I dropped out after three semesters. I worked erode Merce. I went back in complete my undergraduate degree adopts a couple. Years later I say psychology with concentration to pure science and Irene didn't know what to do with myself, so he did some tamping. He did construction, he worked at Mcdonald's, then he went back to school again and got a phd in public policy. So not the typical path for a labour economists at MIT and that real world experience is,
reflected in David, otters, work. My work very concrete, I'm not high Fearest, I'm very much driven by practical problems. A lot of the questions I studied are related things. I worked on and saw first hand working, poor communities working in places undergoing political upheaval watch in the Gulf of inequality expand in the information age, watching the gulf of inequality expand in the information age. Yes, that does sound like a trance formative idea and it leads to a large question will Newt technologies make that inequality, gulf, bigger, we're smaller. You could see it going either. Way right. On the one hand, technology democratizes many of us are now rich enough to afford what is essentially a butler Amazon dot com for instance, will bring you whatever you like quite quickly at the push the button? On the other hand, much of the wealth produced by the
kind of technology flows, way up to the tippy top of the income later so who are the winners and who are the losers when there is such a transformative shift in the global economy. Think about when the last big shifts. We lived through the massive expansion of global trade during which the? U S intentionally, sent millions of jobs. To China. We actually had David order on the show, a few years back to talk about that episode. Number two. Seventy four! If you want to listen, it's called. Did China eat America's jobs, so utter has done a lot of thinking about these issues. No country has experience the extremes of rising inequality. The United States has and there's no evidence
u S his game, much from it, we haven't grown faster than other countries. We don't have higher labour force participation rates. We don't have higher social mobility of people going from Baxter riches. If you wanted a spark notes version of the U S economy over the past few decades. It would be this rising productivity, though not as fast arise as the Post war era and stagnant median wages with the productivity gains, largely benefiting the top of the income distribution that yeah it's just incredibly suit, and so, as far as we can measure it, the medium is barely budging and now draw that it's time to come twitter, another very, very large disruption, because you know that robots
future. You ve been hearing about open the potatoes hell, I'm sorry day, I'm afraid I can't do that. Yeah! Well. The future got here yesterday that the figure I like your shirt so early pretty good you're worker This is great comics radio, the podcast, but explores the hidden side of everything. Here's your host Stephen Abner. in the spring of twenty eighteen, David Otter was asked to co, chair and MIT taskforce called the work of the future
it included researchers from a variety of disciplines, economics, engineering, political science, anthropology, even the mission, was to explore how new technologies like robotics and automation will affect labour markets, especially whether certain groups of workers would be left behind. keep in mind that this sort of prediction is really hard, as evidenced by the actions that economists made about globalization. They predicted that when the? U S offshore, manufacturing jobs to China, that Americans, who work in manufacturing would be made better off, since eight theoretically be reallocated into better jobs, but as David or told us in that early episode, this didn't happen. Some people are leaving labour market. Some people going into unemployment something's going on disability and so the reality. asian process seems to be slow frictional and scoring
the real differentiate, or is that school level, the worker so higher paid and more highly educated workers. They seem to reallocate successfully out of manufacturing, and other jobs. So the hr person edible textile, firm gets a nature elsewhere and the manufacturers on the line are probably not in line with We are much less likely do so exactly so. Considering the difficulty of making predictions about the future of work, the MIT taskforce started with one thing: they were pretty sure about. The one thing we are confident in was that the? U S words generating lots of low wage jobs too many even yes. Well, actually, too many is better than to feel when there's too many at least are competing hard for workers when they're too few workers are competing for them, and that means those jobs will get worse. And so the one positive thing you would say about the: U S workforce. Well, we had a lot of crappy jobs. The taskforce began its work before the pandemic. What
kind of damage has been done by the pandemic. Recession in the short run is just done it normal damage to most of the important service jobs. The ones that were you absolutely necessary, like grocery stores in healthcare, have persisted, but many of the jobs in retail in restaurants and hospitality have not a lot of them Jobs paid only the minimum wage. Even so, many of them won't becoming back. I think the biggest change is most obvious. Is television that we are just doing more things remotely we kind of broken the space time barrier and that we can be in two places at once, but we can get to any two places instantly. No one can say how far
we? The old normal will return, but consider just one pandemic change. The massive drop in business travel lets a business travel, never returns to pre pandemic levels. What kind of downstream labour effects does that have touched? Airplanes right? It's movers and limos its expensive hotels that ill people, a full freight on weeknights and then go out to Marquis restaurants and then go have their shoe shine and dry cleaners. And so I think that's the real challenge. The work of the future task force took the pandemic into account. As best as I could, and they recently published their report. It tries to answer three main questions the first one, how are emerging technologies, transforming the nature of human work and the set of skills that able humans to thrive in the digital economy. You'll technology is over is eliminating work and creating work simultaneously. We tend to focus on
what is automated away in a completely reasonable. Simultaneously new areas, expertise new luxuries new services, new demands are CASA being created and that process that kind of turnover is highly productive. Consider, for instance, how medicine is practice these days There's hundreds of medical specialities way way more than there used to be and is not because doctors have become narrow, a narrower. They know less and less is that they know more and more in depth, rather than breadth right. The extent of expertise required is just extraordinary and humans have finally capacity. Where did all that need for expertise come from? Well, it came from research and technology, and so on so often were broadly expertise, but it's not just the high tech professions. You will find patents emerging for new ways of hardening nails, fear, and so I mean
if not the metals human onto Would patents for sober vote, heck electricians. People who install solar cells is a lot of skilled work. That's done hands on being electrician, being a plumber billing homeward preparing an engine and much of that work. Requires a combination of dexterity inflexibility and problem solving and also knowledge knowledge on demand. A lot of people today consult you too, when they want to learn how to sweat a pipe. We can augment people's capability to do that, work by giving them the are tools giving them information on many people could be much more effective in that work and more productive, therefore paid more if they were augmented in these ways, and so you can see in those eggs about how you could use the technology to not make people less necessary but, to make them more effective. That said, not every profession benefits from this kind of tech, augmentation If you're do other things at all of a sudden, a machine can you,
the new year opportunistic contracts and usually the people who, are, on the one hand, that senior work disappear, not the same people who are getting new opportunities. We saw this vividly when the- U S offshore, manufacturing jobs and we're seeing it now in other sectors, for the people who have been working in Clerval, odds, are many production jobs? What our nation has done is made their work unnecessary, its tempting to think that automation will replace only the simpler jobs, the don't require heavy cognitive input, but that's not the case. Otter has seen as for himself at some. The firms he's visited. One of them was a big insurance company, and they do enormous amount of claims education, claims assessment and they have used floors of- I guess you call them. Forensic accounts
and they go through a lot of material. Looking for anomalies, looking for fraud looking for overpayment and so on, it is true that forensic accounting requires a high level of expertise, but combing through these files in search of anomalies, is also a tedious task and the automation has really accelerated that discovery. Work instead. I should do recently well this and somewhat hastily they never now that attention they never arrive. Energy. Let's they machine learning and artificial intelligence can be used to find these anomalies. Does that mean that the people who used to find the anomalies are out of work or they have a different style of work? A different amount of work so definitely toll headcount of people who need to do this. Work is shrinking now, they're, mostly not following people, but they said on hiring the work, I think that remains is quite interesting. Lose less tee. and war action, but it does ultimately
I think reduction in the number of people doing network the automating of work is itself big business, even if it has not much attention him. One of the major firms in this space you I path, practices, what is called robotic process, autonomy, u I path is currently valued at around twenty six billion dollars and plans to go public soon. Companies like Microsoft, have also been on automating software, if you are the kind of person who hears this ends shudders at the thought that technology is just. drawing our way of life. Well, There is a long history of such thumb, Aristotle, at the same concern and in ancient Rome some technologies were outlawed because of the expected job loss in the most recent century. If you ve ever watched a movie, you have
We come across at least one fever. Dream of technology, run him up and fears of a robot apocalypse, someplace runners, job to hunt down, replicates, manufacture humans. You can tell from the real thing. Skynet begins to learn at a chimera great, it become self aware to fourteen. I am pleased that time august- twenty ninth- we don't know who struck first us them, but if the overall goal is to make good policy and economic decisions about our collective future The prohibition base that policy on movie plots as history has shown again and again and again, the fear of new technologies tends to be overstated and the gains from technology make most people better off, but maybe you think maybe
at this time is different in the old days when the automobile replaced the horse and carriage. If you lost your job as a carriage maker or a stable hand, you could probably find work in an auto plan. What about today. a recent paper by Torone, Eskimo, Blue and Pasqua Restrepo, found that a single industrial robot will typically reduce employment by as many as six human workers, David Otter again and I understand why companies would you done a lot of sense. Labors cause no one hires worker for final hiring workers. They hire workers was anything Stein. If they could have machines it did it will without complaining, cost less that's what they would do, but we have a public entry something more than that. We're got lots of people them ultimately work for the people. We want to augment the people There are many high. Lee valuable social problems that could use automation
could use investment and we under investing. For example, healthcare considered this health care Cieca he's gonna be evaluating you today or by her mother. Her warrior, I'm ok. How are you going to secure a larger sure so dirty harder to elucidate Yasser Arafat? Again, no complaints, Abiola, formal Lucy, is a doctor who works with a nursing home in Westchester County. Just have some new. City, it is called Andrews on Hudson you'll, be about where you live forever, but here's the thing doktor follow: Lucy, isn't. the nursing home today he is examining the patient remotely
We are in our infancy of adopting certain robots. That is James Rosamond he's the CEO of Andreasen. Hudson. We have two robots. One for for the purposes of telemedicine, so that physicians can go one to patient rooms, with justice Seven nurse when they can't be physically available on site. This telemedicine, robot doesn't look like much, or at least not like what you might think. A robot should look like Yeah, like an Ipad that, as on a basis- as we all set can move to various areas, and we also have another but that is a social robot to visit certain risks. Some may be less able to get up and walk round. I understand you had eight baltic dogs and eleven, robotic cats? Did you have to pull them then? Because of covered concerns they ve been put in the channel for a little while
the problem with the robots in the environment were in right now that you can't have him just roaming about so in such controls added this other layer of complexity to robotics, So the pandemic is the reason the robotic dogs and cats had to be sidelined, but the pandemic was also the reason. Andrews, got the telemedicine, robot nurse Homes were hot zone for covered transmission, so rose and men wanted to minimize face to face contact. Are you pretty typical? As far as a nursing facility, with the amount of robots you have our you at the leading edge or you lagging hard to know where we stand in comparison to other providers, because this is a topic that comes up very often but we do know that a lot of the people that we talk to
utilise those in their facilities. Also, James Rosamond is a self proclaimed, robot nerd. I think I watched short circuit when I was little. Oh I get it. Johnny five was a big inspiration for me, but there are other. on pandemic reasons that a nursing home or hospital might want to use robots job. We worked very hard on the retention- and we do have a good retention rape, but what we ask of people you know they retire, we would love them the work there for ever and ever and I'd love to clone people, but we can't you know what me that's for another shell, but we have a labour A shortage in the market of Ursus and of sinners see and eight is a certified nursing assistant in the. U S today there, Roughly four million are ends or registered nurses. A recent study in
the American Journal of Medical quality, estimated that by twenty thirty less than a decade from now there will be a shortage. of half a million or ends this gap is driven by both demand. We, of a large population of elderly and sick people and supply there are more nurses aging out of the workforce than entering it. I've got to see this labour shortage get worse and worse. How hard is it for you, to hire already it's incredibly difficult. It is a very good, the current demanding job. There is a critical shortage of Those individuals Andrews is a pretty typical nursing aside from their new robot workers? They ve got a hundred ninety residents and nearly two hundred fifty employees. The typical resident is over Seventy and has a variety of conditions: respiratory conditions, Seo Pd General, chronic respiratory failure, congestive heart failure, cancer, the nursing,
assistance manage a lot of the moment by moment care they earn. around twenty dollars an hour nurses. Around need a forty dollars an hour. We need all our works out to around eighty three thousand dollars a year and what do these robots cost? It was four thousand dollars for one of the Roma that we are using for socialization and then for the medical robot. We wish that we pay two thousand dollars a month because it has all the equipment, equipment, meaning lake he cagey possibility exactly with the telemedicine robot. One of the key components as not just at the clinician can look at that. Patient and assess them. But it has an array of tools whether it so you have what they call smart stethoscope, so that directly feeds into What the physician can see on there- and you know it-
the KGB inside and an altar sounded something that we're looking on. Adding your boyfriend is very good infatuation. Ninety eight percent, James Roseman says the robots have increased productivity at the nursing. home and better. Yet they ve helped improve patient outcomes in one area that is always of concern individuals who come to us for short term rehabilitation, and then something happens medically with them then, you have to send them back out to the hospital collar readmission, and so we realize by adding the robot and having faster access, through clinicians, to be able to view something real time assess it. We were able to fairly snuff, reduce readmission rates to the hospital. Just through that alone. For David Otter, the MIT Labour Economist
These nursing home robots can help answered. The second question that his work of the future task force asked: how can we shape in catalyzed technological innovation to complement and augment human potential? You could do so much technology. healthcare without reducing employment and yet expanding the quality of care and the quantity of care. And, of course, you need tons and tons of people to actually do the hands on care one, but is that reading of the situation to optimistic coming up after the break a fascinating new study about Japanese, is nursing. Homes were really worried about, are the lower skilled workers that might be completely replaced and I is the andreasen nursing home and out why? Why is the? U S? A laggard when it comes to health care, robots, sort of hard to understand and if you like what you hearing on figures,
radio today, I'm should give us a reading or red review on your part, gossip and, while you're there be sure to follow the other shows in our Fr Economics, radio network, no stupid questions, people, I mostly admire and sue dear breaks. The internet will be right back with robots and combat. For economics, radio sponsored by zipper cruder when it comes to looking for a job most people would probably agree that the whole experience is not fun, but zip recruiters figured out ways to make the job search process better easier, create a free profile on zipper, gruner dot com and get matched to great jobs, plus zip recruiter will proactively pitch your pro file to employers with jobs match your experience if an actual
person from the company likes where they see they can personally invite you to apply to their job plus. If you like the job, you can apply with just one click. So what are you waiting for you if you want an easier job search sign up for free, unzip, recruiter, today and put zip recruiter to work for you The Emma anti labour. Economist David Otter was Co. Chair of a task force on the future of work, specifically how the? U S workforce is integrating and adapting to new technologies. The taskforce found that the? U s is not nearly as adept as one might hope in this regard. Here's what they re in their final report Institute, changes in policy choices failed to blunt and, in some cases, magnified the consequences of these press There is on the? U S: labour market, so David of all the rich countries in the world
How would you rent the? U S in terms of successfully adapting to the future of work assuming that we are not in, let's say the ninety percent Tyler above Why are we trailing? I will put the? U S, maybe at the bottom of the top dozen, on the plus side, let's give the vessel over the credit rating. Credibly, creative and entrepreneurial. A lot of the technologies originate you're right, but in terms of dealing with consequences, as opposed to the opportunities. That's where we have been extremely poor. Low wage workers in Canada make twenty five percent more per hour than low wage workers. Nice. It's hard to believe that canadian workers are she twenty five percent, more productive, our big dolls- and U S workers. They seemed very unlikely, we're. How are those we do so much higher in Canada? There are Minimum wages and then there are just norms about what is acceptable and the. U S has kind of thrown away those norms to substantial we ve convinced ourselves that those norms are the problems, are not. The solution
aside from those norms. There's also the fear that new technologies will destroy more good jobs. Then they create- or at least the productivity tradeoff won't be worth it. But not all countries feel that way, especially when it comes to robots like a lot of people were unaware that Japan spin subsidizing robot adoption since twenty fifty Karen Edelstein is an economist at Stanford. It's beautiful in here the birds, chirping, a lot of existence. Research looks at health care and technology in Asia. Why that focus Asia is a very important part of the world in a part of the global economy. I also have family connections to Asia when it comes to robots in the workforce. Japan number two in the world on a per capita basis, number one by a long shot, is South Korea. Most of those are industrial robots used in the pretty
of automobiles and electronics. The countries with a lot of robots tend to be high wage countries, which makes sense, since higher wages, create more incentives to replace human workers, Germany, Sweden and the: U S all: have a high share of industrial robots. Anna meanwhile is well down. The list, which also makes sense since labour in China is a lot cheaper least for now, when it comes to Japan, Karen Edelstein says that robots have been embraced. for several reasons. First of all, we know Japan is very developed economy in one vessel in many kinds of new technologies from so so technologies to brilliant technologies, so investing and robots natural in that context, so so technology is economists speak for something that doesnt performed very well, especially when its new think of automated phone services and self check out some grocery store.
where's. Second and more related to what I usually study is that the population age structure in Japan is such that its leading the world and the demographic transition, and so therefore has an overall, too finding population and a declining. Working age, population, Japan, in fact, as the oldest population in the world. So you have an increasing demand for long term care and a declining supply of workers to staff that long term care. This is the same dynamic but Jim Rosamond of the Andrews Nursing home till this about, but it even more pronounced in Japan? A lot of countries ease the burden. Of an aging population by importing labour, but as many people know, Japan is less welcoming of immigrant labour than many other countries in the world and has actually happened
longstanding acceptance of robots. I feel, like I read that a few years ago, Japan and finally started loosen up. Suddenly, immigration is that right, Japan, desk Jane you to loosen immigration, so it certainly not a black or white thing, but it's just relative to many other countries where the labour market conditions might be different. In other words, and might have opted for more immigrant labour to health care for its aging population, but instead it invested heavily in robots, so they don't look like our to date mercy. Three p hope it. They have functionality that enables them to take actions based on what their monitoring and a cobalt is a term that developed for What was that work alongside humans? Hobart as in a collaborative robot? It is a very different machine than the kind of robots used in something like auto manufacturing
Correct yeah. Those robots can kind of swing their arms without worrying that they're gonna knock over human and damaged, and then a cobalt is defined, as sincerity working alongside humans. Is that right? That's! The idea is that can work alongside their not only aware physically other humans presence, but they can productively interact with the human in japanese nursing home there are a variety of cobalt designed to accomplish a variety of tasks, one type, for instance, is designed to monitor patients. So these can help both the caregivers and the people themselves to avoid falls, particularly if they really out of bed at night for they get up and then trip on something there also co bots to help the nursing homes staff move their patients that these big robots with who, with their arms, that help too
people up others that actually are worn by the caregiver really just strap onto the body when there trying to move someone from the bed to a chair or back again said: they're not shaped like a human, but to fit onto a human body, and these robots are trying to address the issue of back pain that caregiver, this often experience and leads to turn over and therefore poor outcomes for long term care. Other robots help with other activities of individuals such as being able to move directly themselves into function independently to help with taking a bath, are walking around. So, unlike the typical robot, Cuba is designed to compliment human labour rather than replace it that, at least is the theory, Karen Edelstein being an economist, wanted to test the SIRI she
and two colleagues young we until she Aki ease LUCA set out to gather and analyze data from eight hundred and sixty nursing homes in Japan. We focus and nursing homes, partly because that's where this, pollution. Aging question is really must manifest, and also because the huge debate about technologies is yes, we know that surgeons jobs will be, affected by technology, but what were really worried about are the lower skilled workers that might be completely replaced. A lot of the rich search in manufacturing has shown that to be. Certainly, I worry that has Foundation Edelstein and her Co. Authors were able to collect a variety of data for this study. First, wage and employment data from these nursing homes. This in
who did whether given employ ye, was a so called regular worker, which was usually a full time position and paid fairly well or a lower paid non, regular, meaning a part time or flex worker. The researchers also measured the degree of cobalt adoption in You been nursing home, but they needed to introduce a random variable to prove causality between the adoption of robots and the effects on staffing. Luckily, for them different prefectural across Japan, subsidize Co Botz at different rates, some as high as fifty percent this variation in subsidies gave the researchers and nice natural experiment and we the variation in those subsidies to help figure out, which way causality. Arrow goes Nicholson and her colleagues, eggs ever written a working paper called robots and labour in the service sector, evidence from nursing homes when they find what we find is that,
about adoption is strongly correlated with having larger nursing home, and it appears to be a causal impact that adopting robots is associated with more care workers rather than fewer, but these additional care workers are ye non regular type on more flexible contracts, so that sounds as if it could mean that robots are bad for the upper end of that employment spectrum. Considering that this is relatively low paid work anyway, it sounds like it would promote. more human workers, but at a lower wage that about right. Well, yes, it is possible
We also know that the most commonly adopted robot is the monitoring robots we were talking about and they are helping to reduce a long night shifts that nursing care workers have to do so. We think that part of the effect is the workers having produce burden of care, and, yes, we do find a lower wage up a modest amount for the regular nurses. But if the cases that they have shorter work days, then it's not clear that that's actually a welfare loss. When I first read your paper The sort of semi headline that I wrote in my head was we thought robots were the enemy workers, and now it looks like they are best friends, that's a little bit too son. He isn't it here. I think it is the little sunny, although we just a little bit surprising and depending on how
their adopted this automation. Yes, it will replace some of the tasks that care workers do, but the ones that do end up staying in this profession. Maybe they will have more support, thus back pain. I have the education to work alongside robots and may find that more enjoyable experience as well as better for the people. They serve a lot of the work force, fields burned out, not mistake as they don't like doing what they do, but they don't like doing all that, but We can all that stuff and they want to interact one on one with the people they care for an cobalt if they work properly will enable that humans
These qualities are being very dexterous in being able to care directly to the patient and communicate and have compassion with them. You could argue that health care is the ideal scenario for the blending of human and robot labour. There are countless tasks and procedures where technology can plainly be helpful, but the human appetite for compassion also seems boundless, and for now at least humans are better compassion. You could see co bots, helping mightily, not just in hospitals, nursing homes but an at home care as well. A recent study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that some five million older adults in the- U S need help with bathing or using the bathroom
Japan and elsewhere in Asia and also in Europe, it is increasingly possible for a robot to assist with such tasks. That's not just because robots have in subsidize they ve also been deregulated. In the United States. We don't have access to a lot of these types of robots. That again is James. Rosamond, ceo of the Andreasen, Hudson Nursing Home, and why don't? We have more access to these types of robots to good question when I will get. A lot of these things are I'll, find something Mise eyes will get used. You know I'll. Do some research and not late at night I find out? You know? It's only available in Japan or in the EU. Actually many many markets and Women goes out of my eyes, no, that we can't legally import that to the United States the other day just looking at, for example, to read,
use the incidence of individuals developing pressure also for people who are more bad bounds. The current thinking is that you rotate people so that you can increase blood oh and reduce pressure on one given part of the body. So the idea that was thinking about was maybe there are beds beyond just the man. purses that pressure relieving by robotic bad. That literally move people right now, that's being done by humans, It is not available in the United States, so is it? regulation that preventing right now and if so, what kind of regulation is a technical regulation? Is it medical, regular? Sarah sort of hard to understand. I think that Some of it is like a pie chart if you will have different reasons, nothing, just one sort of smoking gun our people in the back, rumour sang eyes- and I could do things rolled out because it goes against our interests. It's just very fragmented, and so you have these regulatory authorities, you have who's gonna pay for power,
you're gonna be used. You want, you can have an appeal. but then you have powers it used in practical terms on site. I think that first and for foremost, there need to be more. Pilots used these models, their pilots going. on every day, Medicare funds, those or their funded by other agencies of the federal government. But there haven't been a lot of pilots adding robotics and our settings. So if you're thinking big picture about the future of work, one of the most compelling questions is the degree to which robotics will compliment labour verses, replace it. One example that I encountered is in a construction company. That's young Lee one of Karen existence, colon
There is on the japanese Nursing home paper. He too is an economist at Stanford. They initially created robots, so they could replace workers, for instance, digging out certain parts of the land to lay the foundation, but they needed people were years of X. More than ten or twenty years of experience, and it was difficult to find that labour anymore. So what did he cited to do is to create Robot where in individual with maybe only one year of experience can operate, machine that could perform the tasks that skilled labour with twenty years of experience could perform. So in this sense, there were designing a robot not to replace the skilled individual, but actually to augment and individual with less skill. In another study, Lee he looked at robots in the manufacturing sector, a study the covered eleven years. There too, he found that robots at first were reply,
hissing workers, but later as the technology matured, the robots became more collaborative robots ten years ago that the voting and robots ten years later, I think, be different. So how do economists seed this relationship unfolding between human workers and smart machines? How can that relationship be optimized Karen Edelstein again. The one surprise you to know is an educated. Her had a researcher that I believe, Investment in human capital is really really important and we need to be investing in young people everyone else to enable to be lifelong learning and to be adaptable. If we give support to people to be adaptable to changes in the labour markets, there really is a possibility that it will work on behalf of a very broad spectrum of society. In other words, every piece of technology in a way could become a crowbar if we human
are skilled enough to collaborate with them. Yes, yes, I think that really is a potential for technology to make our lives better, but I am not of that opinion that it's gonna automatically happen. I think it comes down to the choices that we make particularly in policy on behalf of the most vulnerable in our society. We have time to adapt oceans are educational systems and the way we work- and that again is the my tea economists David Utter. The third and final question from his task force on the future of work, was this: how can our civic in petitions ensure that the gains from these emerging innovations contribute to equality of opportunity. So the inclusion and shared prosperity. The problem strikes me as a lay person is: maybe Jack
Santa coordination problem because we look to our governments to coordinate the way. jobs in the economy will flow and take care of everybody, but in fact governments aren't really very equipped to do that, whereas firms have a different set of incentive. So can you just describe how that will unfold in a way that leaves people not either out of work or grotesquely underpaid or Working in the call me worthy, the gap between the high low just gets, bigger and bigger. So for I want to argue government actually can do a lot and that we in America tend to derive our government and assume you can't be effective, but
in many ways. History chemistry is just the opposite: you'll have to look very far back in history. Just look back a year when the government passed the Cares act and overnight essentially took ten percent of GDP and said: hey we're gonna, send this to households, to businesses and to the unemployed, to keep this pandemic from turning into an economic catastrophe and was how effective the and the government simile has been effective in shaping technology over many generations. Right, the? U S, had a leading patent system in our constitution, but the U S is also invested and are indeed through our universities in health, development and so on. So it actually plays a big role. an even setting the rules of the road. To that end, the MIT work of the future taskforce had some concrete recommendations. They include heavy investment in education and job training, both in schools and through private firms, improving the quality of existing jobs, vehicle seems like a higher minimum wage and labour or
amazing protections and reforming the tax incentives that privilege capital investments over labour. If you think All that sounds a lot like the recommendations we ve been hearing about for a few decades now I agree, so you might be forgiven for thinking these adjustments won't happen, at least not in time to deal with the robotic, revolution, but David Otter isn't panicking the revolution, may be inevitable, but it's not instantaneous. The technology is spectacular and it's gonna momentous impacts, but their unfolding gradually. They often take years two decades, pseudo think about the gap between the hype about driverless cars and numbers you, dont, yet see on the roads, and many of the things are still always off. Many things will happen, but they take time. Let me ask you to cast year, mind forward that Sayd between ten and twenty years. It's pretty easy to foresee a lot of low skilled jobs will be replaced or very much,
and they bullets even a lot of medium in high school ones, but say, economists and now writers in part castors and forensic insurance. agents. That say that many many many of those jobs get essentially wiped out by some combination of robots and combats in artificial tell genes and machine learning when that mostly be a wonderful thing, so it's wonderful in one sense in means. We are I'm Africa, we can do everything we are doing and yet not using labour to do so. We have incredible letter opportunities. Therefore, we have incredible protein incredible wealth. The problem that creates is twofold. One is a huge distributional challenge Our main method of income distribution in this country in a most industrialize economies is ownership of labour right. You have some labour, you invest in your skills and then use all those skills and labour to the market. For thirty thirty five years you save some money retire. If labours,
longer scarce what claimed you have on the assets about society. So I worry about the problem. The problem of abundance. Actually, the problem of lack of labour scarcity, the others I do think work you have one can oversell it, but work should be very to some degree. It gives people. Identity gives them structure, it gives them purpose. When this is what the Calvinists have always told us? But how do we know? This is true what we know and people lose work. They are miserable. So if we can have less work, I'd like to see Everybody have a little bit less rather than many people not working at all. David order is a lot smarter than me. So I inclined to believe him when he says that people are miserable when they lose work. On the other hand, could it be that people who have lost work in the past have been miserable because our civilization,
built around work as the primary means to satisfy your basic needs. If the assets of society as otter puts it, are so bountiful at some point in the future, should there be a way to share in those assets, while our robot, cobalt friends do most of the work. Some people are lucky enough to love their work. I'll be honest. That described me most days at least, and I'm guessing it scribes David or two, but many many many people have jobs, they do not love and which keep them from what they do. Love economists are pretty good at measuring utility, but you're, not very good measuring things like love, maybe if the robots and Co Botz, really smart bacon, teach the economists how to do that coming up next time,
on four economics, radio. He was the presidential candidate. No one had ever heard of he became cult. Favorite Oh, he is leading the poles to become mare of New York City. Do we think that what's then happening has been working and if you think it's been working great, I might not be the candidate that you want. Andrew Yang is very unusual political, Canada, New York City, in a very unusual moment a mere yang, be unprecedentedly amazing or just unprecedentedly weird, but next time on the show until then take care of yourself, and if you can someone else too freedoms, radios produced by stature in rainbow radio. We can be reached at radio at for economics not come. The friggin Alex radio network also includes no stupid question
people are mostly admire and severe rakes, the internet, all of which you should probably be listening to. This episode was produced by Zack Le Pen ski our staff also includes Allison, Craig Low Mark Mccluskey Red Ribbon married Duke Immaterial Lyric Bout it and Jacob Poem we have held this week from Jasmine Cleaner? Our theme song is MR fortune by the hitchhikers. All the other music was composed. By we scare you can get the entire archive economics, radio, on any podcast act. If you'd like to read a transcript or check out, the show notes which have links to all the underline research visit for economics Dotcom as always. Thank you so much for listening. What do you call these two roads so they have names right now the Stephen doesn't robot, and that really are what we're going to. After this,
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Transcript generated on 2021-07-06.