AI Is Making Economists Rethink the Story of Automation

Will artificial intelligence take our jobs? As AI raises new fears about a jobless future, it’s helpful to consider how economists’ understanding of technology and labor has evolved. For decades, economists were relatively optimistic, and pointed out that previous waves of technology had not led to mass unemployment. But as income inequality rose in much of the world, they began to revise their theories. Newer models of technology’s affects on the labor market account for the fact that it absolutely can displace workers and lower wages. In the long run, technology does tend to raise living standards. But how soon and how broadly? That depends on two factors: Whether technologies create new jobs for people to do and whether workers have a voice in technology’s deployment.

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