Arizona’s Future: Job Creation

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Arizona State University economist Dennis Hoffman of the W.P. Carey School of Business will discuss the future of job creation in our state and country.

Ted Simons: In tonight's addition of "Arizona's Future" we look at jobs and the changing nature of employment in a word that's seeing machines and computers increasingly replace human labor. Dennis Hoffman is an ASU economist with the W.P. Carey School of Business. This is fascinating, the future of jobs -- we could be redefining what a job is.

Dennis Hoffman: Absolutely, Ted. You know, you can read these -- look into the future books and robotics and the age of the machine and all this kind of stuff and it sounds a bit science fiction oriented. But I think this really resonates with a lot of folks right now, folks that have experienced job loss due to automation and have not been able to say when this race with the machine that these people talk about.

Ted Simons: Do you want to race with the machine or run alongside the machine?

Dennis Hoffman: I think you want to race with the machine, alongside the machine as you've said it, not with the thought that you can beat the computer. Not with the thought that you can take advantage of automation or prevent it from happening or technological process or somehow hold this back or impede it. I think we need to embrace it. I think those that do choose to embrace it -- and you can do so in many ways. We're talking about S.T.E.M. degrees obviously, but also people that can articulate products that machines can produce, that can market services that these machines can create. And that, you need to complement this automated process. And those would be the winners. Those that turn their backs on this, that say, well, the economy just didn't provide for me, that's going to be a tough row.

Ted Simons: Is there a worry, though, a concern that technology could be out-pacing the training that we're all scrambling to get?

Dennis Hoffman: Well, absolutely. I think -- I think it's tough to train, you know, keep pace with training that keeps pace with automation. My mind goes back to a statistics professor I had in college. He said I will teach you classical applications that will last you a lifetime, but I will not teach you what happens when you punch the F4 key on a computer. What happens today will be different than what happens tomorrow. And of course we need applications, we need to understand applications. But we don't need to be wedded to current technologies. We need to be adaptive and be able to keep pace with this ever-advancing technological process.

Ted Simons: What does that mean in terms of jobs, part-time jobs becoming more prevalent, do you think?

Dennis Hoffman: It means that individuals that continually monitor their skillset -- and I don't want that to be -- that doesn't always mean that you can always fix the latest computer. That means you always understand what computers can deliver. And you could be in marketing, in sales, in distribution, you could be in supply chain, you need to understand how goods and services will be transacted as a result of this new machine age. And skills in the past that were rewarded -- say, physical skills and strength and brawn -- they are going to be replaced. I think the rewarded skills are people that are conscientious, people that can communicate. Actually it cuts across genders. These authors write that women may have the distinct advantage going forward, because they are more conscientious. They are able to interact with people at dimensions that outstrip men's ability in many cases.

Ted Simons: From a public policy standpoint, how do you keep from having a society of a bunch of stubborn dudes who are not keeping you want and who are not employed. You know what happens when folks think the disparate of income -- sounds like a recipe for even more inequality of income. What's going happen in the future?

Dennis Hoffman: That's a potential, that's absolutely a risk. The market signals will be clear to those individuals. They will have to embrace some of this. There always will be room for HVAC technicians, people that need a modicum of technical skills but are willing to kind of roll up the sleeves and do some work. So there will be jobs there. But the jobs that will be rewarded by the market are those jobs that embrace technology. So that's what these authors talk about, the big divide. If you're content with manual labor, with not embracing what a machine can do, your lot is going to be low income in a pretty tough job.

Ted Simons: In general, does that mean that we look at prosperity in a different way? Again, I go back to this part-time nature. Machines make things more efficient. If I'm working eight or hours a day, and the machine is doing what I'm doing in three or four, what am I doing the rest of the day?

Dennis Hoffman: We're going to have more leisure time, we're going to have goods. Some of the points made in this literature suggest that we don't even measure GDP correctly because it's very price-based. If things are given away for free on the internet -- there are huge amounts of information free on the internet. I bought a car today. I did all of my research on the internet and learned a lot and it was very helpful in the negotiation. I got all that information for free.

Ted Simons: My goodness. Okay, again, public policy, Arizona lawmakers, decision makers what, do they see when they look into the future and see a bunch of digital as dots and dashes. What do they see as far as policy is concerned?

Dennis Hoffman: There's still role for government. Some of the folks are watching and say Hoffman, he's on Horizon, he was always on the role of government. In this case the role for government is to provide for education, for opportunities for people to learn these skills, and again, S.T.E.M. is one set of skills. It's not just S.T.E.M., it's ability to communicate, it's ability to think analytically. Align yourself with the abilities that these machines have, and think about how you can market products and services more efficiently and in a more lucrative fashion. Infrastructure is a government play, tax reform would be a government play. Immigration reform, we've talked about this ad nauseum but it is huge. Immigration form would help unleash this labor force.

Ted Simons: About 30 seconds left.

Ted Simons: Is Arizona forward to this future?

Dennis Hoffman: Oh, we hope so, Ted, we absolutely hope so. There are some in Arizona waiting for the old Arizona to come back. Let's just wait this thing out and we'll become this growth magnet, this people magnet and construction will take over again. I think as every month goes by people are really starting to question that. So investing in education, you know, and more investments in higher education, vocational skills, they are needed, they will be rewarded.

Ted Simons: Absolutely fascinating stuff, brave New World out there. Thanks for joining us.

Dennis Hoffman: Great to be here, Ted.

Dennis Hoffman:Economist, W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University;

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