Friday, February 15, 2019

Report says increase in workplace automation could widen the rural-urban economic divide

The increase in automation could widen the economic divide between urban and rural America, says a report from the Brookings Institution.

Metropolitan areas tend to have the lion's share of large, digitally based businesses and manufacturers, while rural areas are home to lower-tech or older-tech companies. That divide, made clearer by results of the 2016 election, "reflected something important about the fundamental nature of emerging digital technologies, including various forms of automation, such as artificial intelligence," writes Mark Muro, director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings. "The sharpened spatial divides did not just reflect random siting decisions, in this regard, or the decline of manufacturing (though those contributed). Instead, a significant body of academic literature now suggests the new technologies have introduced disruptive tools into the economy that, by empowering high-level work and substituting for 'routine' tasks, are also massively rearranging the nation’s economic geography."

In short, the availability of AI amplifies a skilled worker's value and impact, and over time that has snowballed as urban businesses become ever more successful and continue attracting more workers and businesses, while rural businesses are left in the dust, Muro writes.

"All of which suggests the need to add another item to the list of social and ethical dilemmas surrounding the coming AI era the fact that AI and its positive and negative impacts will not be distributed evenly, and will likely contribute to the nation’s troubling geographical divides," Muro writes. "Solving for this challenge will add yet another priority to problem-solving about the 'future of work,' worker 'adjustment,' and the ethical content of algorithms."

No comments: