Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Unbelievable Precision

I'm not buying this Los Angeles Times article about how many jobs in the United States are at "high risk" of automation in the next 15 years or so.

It's not because I think it's some kind of "liberal media" cliché that's trying to talk about bleak economic news in order to get people thinking negatively about the current president. It's not because I think that jobs won't get phased out by innovation and advances in automation. It's not because I think that the story ran because the figures were less for Europe and all newspaper reporters have a goal of making America look bad. That's ridiculous.

No, I'm not buying it because the analysis firm that conducted the research and survey came up with a figure of 38 percent. Not a rounding number like 35 or 40. Nope. A precise oddball figure of 38. Which is also ridiculous. There's no way anyone could come up with that kind of number, whether the time frame is the next week or the next decade. If the analysts had said "a third," or "around a quarter" or even "more than two-fifths" that would sound like a reasonable guess or even aa reasonable result for speculative analysis.

But 38? Nah. Go back to the drawing board and come up with a vaguer answer. It's easy. Just look at the way politicians talk about budgets: The closer they get to exact dollar amounts the more nervous they are. Only when the talk turns to values like "several billion" or "almost a trillion" do they seem relaxed.

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