The rapid development of technology in all facets of modern life has given rise to the prediction that many jobs would disappear in the foreseeable future. Among those tipped to go to the museum basement are factory hands, drivers and cashiers.
The prospects for the professionals are not rosy, either. Some of the tasks in medical diagnosis are being done by computers instead of doctors. IBM’s AI Ross, a legal research platform powered by AI, has been employed by more and more law firms in the US. It is inevitable that other professionals, economists included, will face a similar technological makeover.
In an article entitled ‘The rise of the tech economist—a scientific upgrade for the economist profession?’ (Asia Asset Management Journal, December 2017), Dr. Seen-meng Chew, Associate Professor of Practice in Finance of CUHK, notes the emergence of ‘tech economists’ in the last decade and attributes it to ‘the deluge of data created and recorded by electronic devices, and the advancement of computational tools available to analyse these data.’
He also observes that tech companies like Amazon are employing an increasingly larger number of economists, often under the title of ‘data scientist’, to perform data analysis and solve business problems.
Data analytics is in fact one area in CUHK’s undergraduate programme of economics that students can choose to concentrate on. That the programme is housed in the Faculty of Social Science puts it in proximity to disciplines related to the study of human behaviour and social phenomena. It will nurture a wider perspective and develop relevant skills in addition to numeracy.
This is indeed required of the 21st century economist, as Dr. Chew concludes the abovementioned article: ‘one must not only have the intellectual flexibility to apply economic theories to a variety of business issues, but must also be able to work closely with professionals from other fields, including sales, marketing, and IT. Moreover, one needs to acquire or upgrade skills in coding and econometrics, as data management and analysis will become an increasingly important part of the job.’
Ye who are intent on making economics your lifelong pursuit, are you up for the challenge?
This article was originally published in No. 535, Newsletter in Apr 2019.