Economic Perspective: The Pace of Automation

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.

Dr. Mike Walden

MARY WALDEN:

“Today’s program looks at the pace of automation. Mike, most experts agree that technology and machinery will continue to replace people in the performance of some job tasks. Indeed, you participated in a conference last year examining the potential for automation in North Carolina.”

“Yet I understand there is disagreement among the experts as to how fast machines will be able to replace humans. Please explain.”

 

MIKE WALDEN:

“Well we do have a wide variety of forecasts here. I mean, everyone agrees that automation is increasing and it’s coming. It is going to result in some job loss. Some say maybe half the jobs we now have won’t be here in 40 years. Others say, ‘No, much less. Maybe 10 percent of jobs will be replaced with automation.’ So there is a range there.”

“We have a new study from the McKenzie Global Institute. They take sort of a middle ground. They say that , ‘Yes automation is coming. It’s probably not going to be as big as some expected.’ And they argue that it’s going to come at a gradual pace. They see many jobs not necessarily replaced by technology but transformed.”

“That means the individual performing that job will have to be retrained to use the technology, but I think that’s certainly worthy of consideration. They also see that there’s going to be a big cost to switching for many businesses switching to technology. That may hold back the transformation of some jobs from human supplied to technology supplied.

McKenzie though, given all this, they do see that we are going to have technology induced unemployment, and they argue that the biggest challenge here is will new jobs be created for those released and if so, what kind of changes to our educational system do we need in order to make sure that people do have jobs in the future.”

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