Robots taking our jobs

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

The figures below are from the recent paper Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labor Markets, by Acemoglu and Restrepo.

VoxEU discussion:

… Estimates suggest that an extra robot per 1000 workers reduces the employment to population ratio by 0.18-0.34 percentage points and wages by 0.25-0.5%. This effect is distinct from the impacts of imports, the decline of routine jobs, offshoring, other types of IT capital, or the total capital stock.

If the robot does the work of a few workers, that explains the fraction of a percent (negative) effect on employment and compensation in a model with direct substitution of robot labor for human work, and smaller second order (positive) effect from comparative advantage of humans in complementary jobs. This is not the optimistic scenario where buggy whip makers displaced by the automobile easily find good new jobs in the expanded economy. We can expect to see many more robots (and virtual AI robots) per 1000 workers in the near future.

Related talk at HKUST by Harvard labor economist Richard Freeman: Work and Income in the Age of Robots and AI. This time it’s different?

Here’s Richard in 2011 when we were working on a project at Alibaba headquarters :-)

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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