For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The wrong kind of AI? Artificial intelligence and the future of labour demand"

by Acemoglu, Daron; Restrepo, Pascual (2019)


Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to influence every aspect of our lives, not least the way production is organised. AI, as a technology platform, can automate tasks previously performed by labour or create new tasks and activities in which humans can be productively employed. Recent technological change has been biased towards automation, with insufficient focus on creating new tasks where labour can be productively employed. The consequences of this choice have been stagnating labour demand, declining labour share in national income, rising inequality and lowering productivity growth. The current tendency is to develop AI in the direction of further automation, but this might mean missing out on the promise of the ‘right’ kind of AI, with better economic and social outcomes.

Key Passage

contrary to popular claims that the future of labour is threatened by “brilliant” new technologies, the greater danger for labour comes from technology that is not raising productivity sufficiently. In particular, if new automation technologies are not great but just “so-so” (just good enough to be adopted but not so much more productive than the labour they are replacing), there is a double jeopardy for labour—there is a displacement effect, taking passed away from labour, but no powerful productivity gains redressing some of the decline in labour demand generated by the displacement effects. (p.27)


Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Inequality, Automation, Technology, Labor Demand



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