Why are men being hit harder than women by the ongoing unemployment crisis?

1. Consider the different intelligence distributions of men and women.

Men and women have very similar mean intelligence, but men tend to have greater variance. One consequence of this difference is that there are more very smart and very dumb men, whereas more women are clustered near the mean.

2. As technology continues to improve, more and more workers will be displaced by automated systems. Manufacturing won't be the only sector affected: how many tax preparation jobs have been eliminated by TurboTax? Sales jobs by Amazon?

Using intelligence as a proxy for a person's general capability to contribute to the economy, we would expect that as technology improves the people who will be affected first will be those who are working jobs that require the least capability. Let's call the red line the displacement line: it represents the minimum amount of capability a person must have in order to be able to do a job that cannot be done by an automated system.

Historically the red line has been far to the left: for most of human history even a very unintelligent person has been able to contribute meaningfully to the economy. That is no longer true.

3. Since the red displacement line has not yet reached the mean level of human intelligence, we would expect that more men than women will have been displaced from their jobs by advancing technology. This group of men is represented by the gray cloud I've drawn on the graphic below. The excess of men in this group can be seen as the vertical space between the blue line and the pink line.

As the red displacement line marches to the right with the advance of technology, more and more people will be displaced from the workforce and will be functionally unable to contribute meaningfully to the economy.


4. Men are disproportionally affected now, but when automated systems can displace people with average intelligence or greater it will be women who will face disproportionate pressure.

5. Even if technology advances at a linear rate, the number of people displaced from the workforce will increase faster than linearly until automated systems surpass the capabilities of the average human.

6. If Singularity proponents are right, we might be extremely fortunate to live in the small window of history that has both advanced technology and such poor automated systems that most humans can make a contribution to the world. For most of the past the red line has been far to the left, and for most of the future the red line will be far to the right.

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