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The Rise of the Robot Reserve Army: Economists Are Worried Why We Aren’t Worried

A new paper from the Center for Global Development says we are spending too much time discussing whether robots can take your job and not enough time discussing what happens next.

The paper’s authors, Lukas Schlogl and Andy Sumner, say it’s impossible to know exactly how many jobs will be destroyed or disrupted by new technology. But, they add, it’s fairly certain there are going to be significant effects — especially in developing economies, where the labor market is skewed toward work that requires the sort of routine, manual labor that’s so susceptible to automation.

Think unskilled jobs in factories or agriculture.

One class of solution they call “quasi-Luddite” — measures that try to stall or reverse the trend of automation. These include taxes on goods made with robots (or taxes on the robots themselves) and regulations that make it difficult to automate existing jobs (via).

They suggest that these measures are challenging to implement in “an open economy,” because if automation makes for cheaper goods or services, then customers will naturally look for them elsewhere; i.e. outside the area covered by such regulations. […]

The other class of solution they call “coping strategies,” which tend to focus on one of two things: re-skilling workers whose jobs are threatened by automation or providing economic safety nets to those affected (for example, a universal basic income or UBI).

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