Crisis Ignored

On February 4, 2013, in Uncategorized

The report from the 2013 World Economic Forum (available here) is astounding. Not for what it says — most of which is said well — but for what it fails to say even in the light of its own survey data. Those data show that “Chronic labour market imbalances,” defined as “A sustained high level of underemployment and unemployment that is structural rather than cyclical in nature,” have a “Likelihood” of 3.69 and an “Impact” of 3.73. Those scores (out of 5, I think) place that factor 13th out of 50 factors that could impact the world, in terms of likelihood of actually happening; and 11th in terms of the global impact it would have.

So it seems that factor is pretty important. But the body of the report doesn’t even mention it, as far as I could see from an admittedly quick scan. Neither, therefore, are the underlying causes of that “imbalance” explored. I have pointed out often — in my deusexmacsap Twitter channel (which is retweeted on the hfdigest channel) — that technology (chiefly automation, AI, and robotics) is already responsible for much of the joblessness we see persisting even as the recession ends. Further, in defining the issue as “a sustained high level,” the WEF is masking the exponential acceleration of the phenomenon, and understanding that acceleration is critical to planning any response to it.

Those of you who listen to my puny cries in the wilderness may glean some notion of what’s coming. As I’ve repeated many times, health care and medicine are not immune to the ravages — and the benefits — of automation, AI, and robotics. To be ravaged or benefited: That is the question; but the WEF is silent.


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