Toward understanding the impact of artificial intelligence on labor

Morgan R. Frank, David Autor, James E. Bessen, Erik Brynjolfsson, Manuel Cebrian, David J. Deming, Maryann Feldman, Matthew Groh, José Lobo, Esteban Moro, Dashun Wang, Hyejin Youn, Iyad Rahwan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

14 Scopus citations

Abstract

Rapid advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies have the potential to significantly disrupt labor markets. While AI and automation can augment the productivity of some workers, they can replace the work done by others and will likely transform almost all occupations at least to some degree. Rising automation is happening in a period of growing economic inequality, raising fears of mass technological unemployment and a renewed call for policy efforts to address the consequences of technological change. In this paper we discuss the barriers that inhibit scientists from measuring the effects of AI and automation on the future of work. These barriers include the lack of high-quality data about the nature of work (e.g., the dynamic requirements of occupations), lack of empirically informed models of key microlevel processes (e.g., skill substitution and human–machine complementarity), and insufficient understanding of how cognitive technologies interact with broader economic dynamics and institutional mechanisms (e.g., urban migration and international trade policy). Overcoming these barriers requires improvements in the longitudinal and spatial resolution of data, as well as refinements to data on workplace skills. These improvements will enable multidisciplinary research to quantitatively monitor and predict the complex evolution of work in tandem with technological progress. Finally, given the fundamental uncertainty in predicting technological change, we recommend developing a decision framework that focuses on resilience to unexpected scenarios in addition to general equilibrium behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6531-6539
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume116
Issue number14
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2 2019

Keywords

  • Automation
  • Economic resilience
  • Employment
  • Future of work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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    Frank, M. R., Autor, D., Bessen, J. E., Brynjolfsson, E., Cebrian, M., Deming, D. J., Feldman, M., Groh, M., Lobo, J., Moro, E., Wang, D., Youn, H., & Rahwan, I. (2019). Toward understanding the impact of artificial intelligence on labor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(14), 6531-6539. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1900949116