The answer to the A.I. jobs apocalypse is all about geography


The spread of intelligence machines will worsen geographic inequality, unless we take proactive measures

Historically, the worst times for labor have been those characterized by both worker-replacing technological change and slow productivity growth. If A.I. technologies turn out to be as brilliant as some of us think, we can expect some workers to see their incomes vanish in the process — even as new jobs are created elsewhere in the economy. That is what has happened in recent years, and it is also what happened during the most tumultuous years of industrialization.

If current trends continue in the coming years, the divide between the automation winners and losers will become even wider. And there are good reasons to think that it will. Looking at the automatability of existing jobs, we have seen that most occupations that require a college degree remain hard to automate, while many unskilled jobs — like those of cashiers, food preparers, call center agents, and truck drivers — seem set to vanish, though how soon is highly uncertain. But there are also unskilled jobs that remain outside the realms of A.I. Many in-person service jobs that center on complex social interactions — like those of fitness trainers, hairstylists, concierges, and massage therapists — will remain safe from automation.

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