Wednesday, March 09, 2011

The Industrial Revolution:

Making you Malthusly redundant for 250 years. Paul Krugman starts to get it.
Computers, it turns out, can quickly analyze millions of documents, cheaply performing a task that used to require armies of lawyers and paralegals. In this case, then, technological progress is actually reducing the demand for highly educated workers.

And legal research isn’t an isolated example. As the article points out, software has also been replacing engineers in such tasks as chip design. More broadly, the idea that modern technology eliminates only menial jobs, that well-educated workers are clear winners, may dominate popular discussion, but it’s actually decades out of date.

The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated.


Gregory said...

Computers are going to program themselves, are they?

I've been hearing that from people outside the field of computers since I was in Uni in 1997.

Still hasn't happened. Still isn't going to happen. Software helps us do it more quickly, with more reliable results and lets make things that are more complicated.

But it can't do the work for us.

Scanner said...

I'm betting the hedge fund kiddies are the next to go. The NYSE hit 50% computer trading last year and there is nothing magic about what the hedge funders do. Bye-Bye billion dollar bonuses.

Scanner said...

@Gregory: Yet.