What's the Latest Development?

In many areas of society, computers are progressing to the point of rivaling high skilled workers, says Kenneth Rogoff, Harvard economics professor and former chief economist at the I.M.F. "Many teachers and schools now use computer programs to scan essays for plagiarism, an ancient transgression made all too easy by the Internet. Indeed, computer-grading of essays is a surging science... Expert computer systems are also gaining traction in medicine, law, finance, and even entertainment."

What's the Big Idea?

Given the progress of computer programs in these fields, says Rogoff, "there is every reason to believe that technological innovation will lead ultimately to commoditization of many skills that now seem very precious and unique." The result will be a more equal, if strange and new, labor market. "The past is not necessarily prologue: given the remarkable flexibility of market forces, it would be foolish, if not dangerous, to infer rising inequality in relative incomes in the coming decades by extrapolating from recent trends."