For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Automation and New Tasks: How Technology Displaces and Reinstates Labor"

by Acemoglu, Daron; Restrepo, Pascual (2019)


We present a framework for understanding the effects of automation and other types of technological changes on labor demand, and use it to interpret changes in US employment over the recent past. At the center of our framework is the allocation of tasks to capital and labor—the task content of production. Automation, which enables capital to replace labor in tasks it was previously engaged in, shifts the task content of production against labor because of a displacement effect. As a result, automation always reduces the labor share in

Key Passage

The history of technology is not only about the displacement of human labor by automation technologies. If it were, we would be confined to a shrinking set of old tasks and jobs, with a steadily declining labor share in national income. Instead, the displacement effect of automation has been counterbalanced by technologies that create new tasks in which labor has a comparative advantage. Such new tasks generate not only a positive productivity effect, but also a reinstatement effect—they reinstate labor into a broader range of tasks and thus change the task content of production in favor of labor. The reinstatement effect is the polaropposite of the displacement effect and directly increases the labor share as well as labor demand. (p.4)


Artificial Intelligence, Automation, Technology, Labor Demand, Worker Replacement


Future of Work, Employment, Automation

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