Automation, Robot Economics & Employment

David Autor just released a new paper exploring the intellectual development and paradoxes in machine displacement of labor. The paper is especially timely given the broad discussion of labor markets economics is having post downturn.

It begins with a quote from the better of Polanyi brothers, Michael, who observed, “We can know more than we can tell… The skill of a driver cannot be replaced by a thorough schooling in the theory of the motorcar; the knowledge I have of my own body differs altogether from the knowledge of its physiology.”

In the first page, he cabins his discussion and sets out the course of the paper:

The interplay between machine and human comparative advantage allows computers to substitute for workers in performing routine, codifiable tasks while amplifying the comparative advantage of workers in supplying problem solving skills, adaptability, and creativity. Understanding this interplay is central to interpreting and forecasting the changing structure of employment in the U.S. and other industrialized countries. This understanding is also is at the heart of the increasingly prominent debate about whether the rapid pace of automation threatens to render the demand for human labor obsolete over the next several decades.

For those interested in innovation, I would highly suggest reading all of it.


First published Aug 27, 2014