The turn of the new millennium is when the automation of middle-class information processing tasks really got under way, according to an analysis by the Associated Press based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 2000 and 2010, the jobs of 1.1 million secretaries were eliminated, replaced by internet services that made everything from maintaining a calendar to planning trips easier than ever. In the same period, the number of telephone operators dropped by 64%, travel agents by 46% and bookkeepers by 26%. And the US was not a special case. As the AP notes, “Two-thirds of the 7.6 million middle-class jobs that vanished in Europe were the victims of technology, estimates economist Maarten Goos at Belgium’s University of Leuven.” Economist Andrew McAfee, Brynjolfsson’s co-author, has called these displaced people “routine cognitive workers.” Technology, he says, is now smart enough to automate their often repetitive, programmatic tasks. ”We are in a desperate, serious competition with these machines,” concurs Larry Kotlikoff, a professor of economics at Boston University. “It seems like the machines are taking over all possible jobs.” Like farming and factory work before it, the labors of the mind are being colonized by devices and systems. In the early 1800′s, nine out of ten Americans worked in agriculture—now it’s around 2%. At its peak, about a third of the US population was employed in manufacturing—now it’s less than 10%. How many decades until the figures are similar for the information-processing tasks that typify rich countries’ post-industrial economies?

How the internet is making us poor – Quartz

Notes

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