Continuing Conversation... David Autor on the Future of Work and Polanyi's Paradox
By Amy Willis
Are you concerned that robots will take your job? Could you write out complete instructions for riding a bike? EconTalk host Russ Roberts explored these questions and more with MIT’s David Autor.
Please use the questions below as prompts in your offline interactions, we’re anxious to broaden the conversation.
Check Your Knowledge:
1. What’s the difference between Polanyi’s paradox and Moravec’s paradox, and how does each relate to computerization and automation?
2. What does Autor mean by the “polarization of employment,” and how is this different from polarization of wages? Which would be more worrisome, and why?
3. What are the factors that explain how automation affects your earnings potential, according to Autor? How do the elasticity of final demand and the elasticity of labor supply compare? How might these elasticities change over time?
4. Autor notes that the supply side response to increasing demand for high-skilled workers has been surprisingly weak. What factors does he suggest account for this, and to what extent do you agree? Are there factors Autor misses, and how might these affect the supply side response?
5. Autor notes that complementarity with robotic devices is critical for the jobs of the future. He and Roberts briefly discuss examples from medicine and warehousing to illustrate. What are some other jobs that might benefit from similar complementarity? How much emphasis would McAfee, McArdle, and Ohanian give to this notion of complementarity? What other suggestions do they offer for the job-seekers of the future?