The Future of Work
What will people do when computers get better than humans at almost everything? Will ordinary jobs disappear, deepening the divide between haves and have-nots? And can leisure be made as meaningful as work?
These troubling questions are underscored by predictions from the best brains in technology about imminent breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. Solutions have been proffered, notably the "Universal Basic Income" or UBI. But maybe predictions of leisure for all are wrong. History suggests that as technology advances, our wants and needs expand. Rather than a jobless world, a more likely challenge is that many of the jobs left for humans to do will be insecure and underpaid, with automation deepening the divide between haves and have-nots. UBI is no solution -- it both costs too much for those who pay taxes and gives too little to those in need. Other ideas are out there -- can they work? What is certain is that human ingenuity will be needed to invent creative solutions that address the enormous challenge of changing work without the upheavals that accompanied the last industrial revolution.
Big Tech: American Innovation at its Best or Threat to Society?
On both sides of the aisle -- and both sides of the Atlantic -- concerns about Big Tech are growing and calls for regulation becoming more insistent. Too often, the technology companies seem tone deaf in response. Tech companies and policymakers need to come together to set rules that protect the economy and society without stopping innovation.
America used to be proud (and other countries envious) of the hugely successful tech companies of Silicon Valley. But public opinion has changed. A range of concerns have been raised. Some focus on potential misuse of what may be monopoly power. Others on the challenge to democracy and national security from on-line interference in elections, terrorist recruiting and even cyber warfare. And many worry that privacy is being eroded in dangerous ways. A reckoning is coming -- these companies are too big and omnipresent to be ignored. But Silicon Valley's innovation culture has spawned products that delight consumers, make many lives easier and even promise to address such enormous issues as education, disease and climate change. It is critical that regulation be shaped by a clear understanding of what is at stake. But even now, too many politicians and policymakers are actually clueless about big tech, while the giant companies have been slow to recognize that they're at the center of the bull's eye, and need to respond in new ways. Let’s look at an agenda for change that makes sense.
The global economy: avoiding the next crisis
A slowdown may be inevitable. The US recovery is almost a decade old. The Fed is tightening -- and so are policy makers in Europe and China. But pessimists who foresee a repeat of the financial crisis are most likely wrong -- provided that governments pull back from trade wars and don’t panic over deficits.
The US economy is still booming, with a much needed recovery in wages now underway as well as rising employment. But with the Federal Reserve set on path to raise rates and, just as importantly, rein in the extraordinary liquidity that it provided to combat the Great Recession, an economic slowdown is in the cards. Europe is showing signs of economic as well as political strains, notably in Italy, and Brexit hangs over the region. Even China may be slowing. These risks can all be managed with careful policy choices. But governments of the major economies are fighting over tariffs and face weakening domestic political support for cooperation. It would be a punishing political failure, for Republicans or Democrats, to allow an inevitable slowdown to turn into a crisis like 2008. What needs to be done to avoid that?
Can the international financial order be saved -- and should we try?
The rules-based system that fostered globalization -- first of trade and then of capital flows -- is under challenge from all sides. America under President Trump is no longer a cheerleader for international institutions like the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF. Emerging countries -- notably China -- have seen their economies grow enormously, but not their role in setting the rules or running the global institutions. Where does this leave international business and finance?
Caroline Atkinson is internationally renowned in policy circles with over three decades of experience as a senior decision-maker and negotiator in the White House, the Bank of England, the US Treasury, the International Monetary Fund, and, most recently, in one of the world’s largest tech companies. Trained as an economist, Caroline has negotiated for the United States on global issues including climate and energy, finance, trade and the global economy, worked extensively in Latin America, Europe and China and advised leading US companies on global business and economic issues.
As Head of Global Policy and Chief Policy Advisor at Google, 2016-2018, Caroline engaged with regulators around the world as they grappled with deepening political concern about Big Tech; critical issues included artificial intelligence, robotics and the future of work; online privacy and personal data; global taxation and proposals for more stringent regulation.
Prior to that, Caroline spent almost five years in the White House working closely with President Obama on global economic growth, trade and climate, participating in his interactions with world leaders, including President Xi, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Modi, President Pena Nieto and others. As the President’s “sherpa” and Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economics, Caroline drove agreement in the G7 and G20 on trade and climate change, the Euro crisis, Russia sanctions. She chaired global negotiations of environment and energy ministers from key countries to forge agreement ahead of the Paris Climate Accord and worked with top US CEOs on business and investment relations with India and Brazil; supported the President’s Export Council of leading US CEOs.
Earlier, at the IMF, she led teams of economists working on Latin American countries, including Argentina, Mexico and Honduras and was part of the IMF senior management and head of communications during the global financial crisis. At the US Treasury, senior financial official with Bob Rubin, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner; at Bank of England, senior manager on financial stability and regulation. Began career as a journalist for the Economist, The Times of London and the Washington Post.
Currently, Caroline serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the Board at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, a Member of the Board of the Center for Global Development, Member of Council on Foreign Relations, and the Economic Club of New York. Formerly she was Vice-Chair of the Board, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW). Caroline graduated from Oxford University and is a dual US/UK national, with Top Secret/SCI clearance.