Saturday, June 25, 2011

Can Digital Technologies Replace Superstars?

Japan's newest pop star, Aimi Eguchi, is a digital creation.

For the past couple of decades, digital technologies have been responsible for skill biased technical change, automating and replacing routine, low-skill work while augmenting the demand for more skilled workers. Bank tellers, clerks and assembly line workers were early targets of automation, while rock stars and CEOs benefited from being able to scale their efforts.

The incomes of superstars have skyrocketed while median wages have stagnated.

However, there's nothing inevitable about technologies only being used to replace low-wage work. Pop stars, actors, artists, writers, mathematicians, chess grandmasters have all been targets of automation. In many ways, expert knowledge is easier to codify than common sense. In principle, every profession is potentially vulnerable as digital technologies, robotics and artificial intelligence advance.

There will be increasing disruption in the economy as businesses restructure, and employment, wages, and incomes re-align to the new reality.

Which sectors do you think will be most affected in the next 10 years. Which professions, other than b-school professors, are relatively immune for the time being?


  1. Sure - "in principle" no profession is immune from automation, and recent successes with computer generated advertising campaigns and computer created artworks suggest that professions that have been traditionally seen as requiring high levels of creativity (and thus essentially human) may be vulnerable.

    However, it is probably wrong to attribute the increasing wage gap solely to the ability of select groups to harness the gains from technology. Many other macroeconomic factors are at play. In this post, unfortunately, the conclusion (increasing disruption, especially within industries requiring high levels of skill) doesn't follow neatly from the two given premises (examples of targets of automation such as pop stars and increasing wage inequality).

    That being said, the legal field has a lot of routine tasks which are currently performed by highly skilled (or at least highly educated) individuals, and one is beginning to see the effects of technology.

  2. I see that what you are saying is true but still blurred ,another problem is that automation is used to control low level employees (like the big brother because all the job is saved and stored numeric format) and thus is source of social problems in in companies
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