Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Nope, I don't see it either

Via the New York Times, a lament about the lack of productivity growth in recent years: 
For years, it has been an article of faith in corporate America that cloud computing and artificial intelligence will fuel a surge in wealth-generating productivity. That belief has inspired a flood of venture funding and company spending. And the payoff, proponents insist, will not be confined to a small group of tech giants but will spread across the economy.

It hasn’t happened yet.

Productivity, which is defined as the value of goods and services produced per hour of work, fell sharply in the first quarter this year, the government reported this month. The quarterly numbers are often volatile, but the report seemed to dash earlier hopes that a productivity revival was finally underway, helped by accelerated investment in digital technologies during the pandemic.
Here's the article's example of AI helping productivity gains: 
At Anthem, a health insurer whose plans cover more than 45 million people, about 75 percent of the customer questions are now handled through its digital channels, including a web portal, a mobile app and speech recognition software. Three years earlier, the digital share was about 30 percent. The question-answering technology to help people with basic tasks like checking the status of a claim, paying a bill or finding a doctor is animated partly by A.I.

Digital automation has eliminated 10 million phone calls that Anthem’s call centers would have fielded, estimated Rajeev Ronanki, president of digital platforms.

Count me... less than impressed. It seems to me that both the chemical and pharmaceutical industries would be ripe for artificial intelligence boost productivity, especially on the research end. If artificial intelligence could tell us exactly what proteins to target with which molcules faster, we would be launching more and better drugs (or more and better materials)... but so far as I can tell, that hasn't quite happened yet. 


  1. If you cut external people and produce the same amount, does that show up in productivity gains? That is, if I can deliver a candidate compound with three fewer FTE’s at WuXi in the same amount of time, or 500 fewer library compound at Eneamine, would that be shown in the numbers?

  2. david baker just published a nature paper last week on designing protein binding proteins:, but you'd be joking if you think anyone can just swirl Rosetta and start vomiting out protein design targets in a day or two. While the big craze of AI discovering previously unthinkable research is not a reality anytime soon, eliminating the otherwise tedious and simple jobs through simple programming is here (and i refuse to acknowledge these as AI), and unfortunately people doing these tedious and simple jobs can't just transform into a scientist overnight to have the productivity growth we'd always imagine brought by AI


looks like Blogger doesn't work with anonymous comments from Chrome browsers at the moment - works in Microsoft Edge, or from Chrome with a Blogger account - sorry! CJ 3/21/20