Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Technology Might make your Job Extinct and Why That's a Good Thing

The basic premise: the future is dynamic - and therefore jobs must be too. Technology not only destroys jobs but simultaneously creates more useful/productive opportunities. From Andy Kessler, a former hedge fund manager (WSJ):

Forget blue-collar and white- collar. There are two types of workers in our economy: creators and servers. Creators are the ones driving productivity—writing code, designing chips, creating drugs, running search engines. Servers, on the other hand, service these creators (and other servers) by building homes, providing food, offering legal advice, and working at the Department of Motor Vehicles. Many servers will be replaced by machines, by computers and by changes in how business operates. It's no coincidence that Google announced it plans to hire 6,000 workers in 2011. [...]

Like it or not, we are at the beginning of a decades-long trend. Beyond the demise of toll takers and stock traders, watch enrollment dwindle in law schools and medical schools. Watch the divergence in stock performance between companies that actually create and those that are in transition—just look at Apple, Netflix and Google over the last five years as compared to retailers and media.

But be warned that this economy is incredibly dynamic, and there is no quick fix for job creation when so much technology-driven job destruction is taking place. Fortunately, history shows that labor-saving machines haven't decreased overall employment even when they have made certain jobs obsolete. Ultimately the economic growth created by new jobs always overwhelms the drag from jobs destroyed—if policy makers let it happen.
Policymakers should take care that in implementing populist policies to "create jobs" that they aren't simply increasing the barriers and transitional costs of newer more sustainable jobs. The best way to do so is not to attempt to predict the future with directed spending/trade barriers/stimulus or subsidies, but to simply get out of the way.

No comments: