Should economists be more concerned about Artificial Intelligence?

Mauricio Armellini and Tim Pike.

This post highlights some of the possible economic implications of the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” — whereby the use of new technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) threatens to transform entire industries and sectors. Some economists have argued that, like past technical change, this will not create large-scale unemployment, as labour gets reallocated. However, many technologists are less optimistic about the employment implications of AI.  In this blog post we argue that the potential for simultaneous and rapid disruption, coupled with the breadth of human functions that AI might replicate, may have profound implications for labour markets.  We conclude that economists should seriously consider the possibility that millions of people may be at risk of unemployment, should these technologies be widely adopted.

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Fish and (micro)chips: Why I’m relatively relaxed about robots

John Lewis.

My earlier post arguing that robotisation wouldn’t destroy jobs, slash wages or drastically shorten the working week prompted many thoughtful responses. Richard Serlin and others countered, arguing that if automation affects all sectors, then displaced workers may have nowhere to go.  Others asked if the sheer scale, speed and scope of robotisation might make it much more disruptive.  Or if wages fall, who will be able to buy the extra output? And Noah Smith raised the prospect that robotisation might eventually differ from earlier waves of innovation by replacing rather than complementing human labour.  This post attempts to respond to those points, expand on the original post and explain why I’m still relatively relaxed about robots.

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Robot Macroeconomics: What can theory and several centuries of economic history teach us?

John Lewis.

Advances in machine learning and mobile robotics mean that robots could do your job better than you.  That’s led to some radical predictions of mass unemployment, much more leisure or a work free future.   But labour saving innovations and the debates around them aren’t really anything new.  Queen Elizabeth I denied a patent for a knitting machine over fears it would create unemployment, Ricardo thought technology would lower wages and Keynes famously predicted a 15 hour working week by 2030.   Understanding why these beliefs proved to be wrong gives us important insights into why similar claims about robotisation might be incorrect.  But automation could nevertheless have sizeable distributional implications and ramifications well beyond the industries in which it’s deployed.

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