Important work. Look closely.
David Autor and @mitecon do important, current and imminently relevant work. Yes, nothing you probably don’t already know.
In his paper, Polanyi’s Paradox and the Shape of Employment Growth [PDF], Autor suggests…” there are three inferences in which we can be fairly confident”:
- One….is that the technological advances that have secularly pushed outward the demand for skilled labor over many decades will continue to do so. As physical labor has given way to cognitive labor, the labor market’s demand for formal analytical skills, written communications, and specific technical knowledge has risen spectacularly
- A second is that employment polarization will not continue indefinitely. While many middle skill tasks are susceptible to automation, many middle skill jobs demand a mixture of tasks from across the skill spectrum. To take one prominent example, medical support occupations—radiology technicians, phlebotomists, nurse technicians, etc.—are a numerically significant and rapidly growing category of relatively well-‐‑remunerated, middle skill employment. While not all of these occupations require a college degree, they do at least demand two years of post-‐‑secondary vocational training.
- and while much contemporary economic pessimism attributes the labor market woes of the past decade to the adverse impacts of computerization, I remain skeptical of this inference. Clearly, computerization has shaped the structure of occupational change and the evolution of skill demands. But it is harder to see the channel through which computerization could have dramatically reduced labor demand after 1999. I expect that a significant stratum of middle skill, non-‐‑college jobs combining specific vocational skills with foundational middle skills—literacy, numeracy, adaptability, problem-‐‑solving and common sense—will persist in coming decades.
human capital investment must be at the heart of any long-term strategy for producing skills that are complemented rather than substituted by technology……Significantly, mastery of “middle skill” mathematics, life sciences, and analytical reasoning is indispensable for success in this training.