For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Artificial Intelligence and Its Implications for Income Distribution and Unemployment"

by Korinek, Anton; Stiglitz, Joseph E (2019)


The introduction of artifi cial intelligence (AI) is the continuation of a long process of automation. Advances in mechanization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries automated much of the physical labor performed by humans. Advances in information technology in the mid- to late twentieth century automated much of the standardized data processing that used to be performed by humans. However, each of these past episodes of automation left large areas of work that could only be performed by humans.

Key Passage

measured productivity has increased rather slowly in recent years, even as the world seems to be captured by AI fever. If AIr elated innovations enter the economy at the same slow pace as suggested by recent productivity statistics, then the transition will be slower than, for example, the wave of mechanization in the 1950– 1970s, and the resulting disruptions may not be very significant. However, there are three possible alternatives: First, some suggest that productivity is significantly undermeasured, for example, because quality improvements are not accurately captured. The best available estimates suggest that this problem is limited to a few tenths of a percentage point (see, e.g., the discussion in Groshen et al. [2017]). Furthermore, there are also unmeasured deteriorations in productivity, for example, declines in service quality as customer service is increasingly automated. Second, the aggregate implications of progress in AI may follow a delayed pattern, similar to what happened after the introduction of computers in the 1980s. Robert Solow (1987) famously quipped that “you can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.” It was not until the 1990s that a significant rise in aggregate productivity could be detected, after sustained investment in computers and a reorganization of business practices had taken place. Third, it is of course possible that a significant discontinuity in productivity growth occurs, as suggested, for example, by proponents of a technological singularity (see, e.g., Kurzweil 2005). (p.350)


Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Technology, Income Distribution, Employment, Equality, Data Processing, Uemployment


Employment, Economics, Automation

Links to Reference



How to contribute.