Andrew Berg, Edward F. Buffie, and Luis-Felipe Zanna
Some say the world is entering a “second machine age.” Every week we read about a new application of artificial intelligence, so-called deep learning, and robotic technology. Automated delivery trucks, electronic teaching and scheduling assistants, computers that replace paralegals, and self-driving cars are just a few. Some seem to approach the “robot” envisioned by Czech science fiction writer Karel Čapek, who coined the term in 1921 to describe an intelligent machine essentially indistinguishable from a human.
No one knows where this technology is headed. Robert Gordon argues that economically meaningful technological change—and productivity growth in the United States—has slowed since the 1970s, except for a decade-long tech boom ending in 2004 (see the June 2016 F&D). But when it comes to intelligent robots, we may be in the early stages of a revolution, and economists should think hard about what it means for economic growth and income distribution.
Autor, David, 2014, “Why Are There Still So Many Jobs? The History and Future of Workplace Automation,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 29, No. 3, pp. 3–3.
Frey, Carl Benedikt, and Michael A. Osborne, 2013, “The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?” Oxford University paper (Oxford, United Kingdom).
Gordon, Robert, 2016, The Rise and Fall of American Growth: The U.S. Standard of Living since the Civil War (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press).
Sachs, Jeffrey D., and Laurence Kotlikoff, 2012, “Smart Machines and Long-Term Misery,” NBER Working Paper 18629 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: National Bureau of Economic Research).