Tsunami of job-stealing robots isn't coming anytime soon

Robert Atkinson for the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation: There has been growing speculation that a coming wave of innovation — indeed, a tsunami — powered by artificial intelligence and robotics will disrupt labor markets, generate mass unemployment, and shift the few jobs that remain into the insecure “gig economy.” ...
There is no reason to believe that the coming technology wave will be any different in pace and magnitude than past waves.
Each past wave led to improved technology in a few key areas — such as steam engines, railroads, steel, electricity, chemical processing, information technology, etc. — and these were used by many sectors and processes. But none completely transformed all industries or processes. Within manufacturing, for example, each wave led to important improvements, but there were still many processes that required human labor.

The next wave, grounded in artificial intelligence and robotics, will be no different ...
The “fourth industrialists” tell us that computer systems with powerful “artificial general intelligence” are just around the corner. For them, AGI and human-like robots will eclipse the full range of human ability — not only in routine manual or cognitive tasks, but also in more complex actions or decision-making. But there is about as much chance of AGI emerging in the next century as the earth being destroyed by an asteroid ...
Past long-wave transformations have taken at least 30 years to work their way from initial introduction to close to full “installation.” ... So, yes, there will be a next wave of innovation, but it will not be an unprecedented tidal wave of transformation, but rather a moderate increase in innovation that will hopefully kick in by at least the mid-part of the next decade and will likely take at least 20 years to diffuse through economies, leading to an increase in economy-wide labor productivity growth of, at best, 3 to 4 percent per year.
Trump's goals are incompatible
Desmond Lachmann for the Official Monetary and Financial Institutions Forum: Economic policy consistency is not the Trump administration's long suit. All one need do is look at how the administration's China trade proposals conflict with its budget policy. That conflict is not likely to end well for the U.S. and global economies.
A principal objective of President Trump's "America first" trade policy is to eliminate the U.S. trade deficit in general and with China in particular. To that end, Trump has announced a large increase in steel and aluminum import tariffs as well as higher tariffs on $50 billion in Chinese products. In addition, he is demanding that China takes measures to reduce its bilateral trade surplus with the U.S. by $100 billion.

While implementing his trade policy, Trump also is pursuing an expansionary budget policy. He is doing so even though the Federal Reserve judges that the economy is at or beyond full employment. He has introduced an unfunded tax cut that will increase the budget deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and he has gone along with legislation that will increase public spending by $300 billion over the next two years.
The Trump administration seems unaware that a necessary condition for the reduction of the trade deficit is that the U.S. must raise its savings rate relative to its investment rate. That holds true no matter what the government does on import restrictions and exchange rate policy. Overlooking this basic tenet of economics seems to blind the administration to the fundamental inconsistency between its trade policy objectives and its budget proposals.
Democrats must focus on American work ethic
A report by Third Way: Expanding opportunity is what Americans want their elected leaders to fight for.
If opportunity is what people want, earning is what they value. They value the dignity and self-respect that comes from contributing to the well-being of their family, community, and country. Democrats should not retreat from fighting for a robust safety net for the vulnerable. But the party of the safety net has to lean into work and the American civic tradition of earning your way through life.
Democratic office-seekers tout this when they speak of themselves. Candidates regale us with stories of the first job they had as a kid and the sacrifices their parents made as a mill worker, single parent, milkman, maid, exterminator, or bartender. Democrats point to the sacrifices that immigrants made coming to this country, often with little or no wealth, and toiling hard to build a better life for future generations. When Democrats tell those stories about once-upon-a-time generations, those people are rightfully heroes. ...

Many Americans worry, however, that the country is retreating from this bedrock value. A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that 50 percent of Americans said “not enough importance” is put on working and having a job in society. Only 19 percent said society places “too much importance” on working and having a job.

Democrats should own and embrace the cherished values of working and earning.
• Compiled by Joseph Lawler from reports published by the various think tanks.
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