The AI Economy by Roger Bootle : a Book Review

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The AI Economy caught my attention when I was browsing for books at Kinokuniya Singapore. I am an economist by training and am always fascinated by the subject, so a book with such a title definitely attracted my attention. The book is written by Roger Bootle, a renowned British economist. It definitely has the prose of an economist – if you read it, you will know it is written by an economist, given the jargon, the economic theories and models the writer brings up in the book. Although readers do not need to have an economics background to enjoy the book, it definitely helps one understand the discussions better.

The book is split into three parts. Part one talks about how humankind has progressed through changes in technology and how these changes have changed the face of our economy as well. The case studies quoted are railways and the steam engine. He also presents a discussion on whether there is any difference this time round. The short answer is yes, and the biggest impact will be on employment.

The second part of the book discusses how wealth will be distributed in the age of artificial intelligence – what kinds of jobs will be in demand, how humanity will change etc. There are several insights which might be useful for both governments and individuals. Those looking for business ideas can also look into this part for more ideas on what industries will be in greater demand in the future. A word of warning though. For the scenario painted to materialise, there are many caveats, in my opinion, but I leave it to the readers to read and understand more.

The third part is where I enjoyed the most, because it discusses a lot of topics that are closest to my heart, namely, taxation, education in the new era and a discussion on universal basic income (UBI). I particularly love the discussion around education because I found many points in agreement on how education or training should be conducted. Personally, I feel that lifelong learning is a must in the new era. EVERY individual who wants to participate in the economy (i.e. earn a living) will have to be responsible for his/her own learning, like selecting the right content to learn, methods of learning, who to learn from etc. If one is reactive to learning, one will have a very hard time keeping up with the changes in the economy, because it will definitely become more dynamic. Businesses will also need to create a learning environment so that they can tap onto the brain power of the talents they hire. Even though this part of the book appears to be written more for policy makers in the AI era, I believed anyone reading this part will benefit tremendously and be able to plan for a better future.

Conclusion

Overall, I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. There are many good discussions on the new economy as artificial intelligence takes over more and more tasks. The part on education will benefit many people. I loved the book, given that it is a combination of two subjects that are close to my heart – economics and artificial intelligence. It would have been a perfect book, if not for the rather dry way it was written. Regardless of the number of stars I give, I believe it is a good book for anyone who wants to know how artificial intelligence will affect their careers and their lives and be prepared for it.

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