Preparing for Technological Unemployment
The Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET) believes that this time is different; the technological innovations of the 21st century will be dramatically reducing the demand for human labor of all kinds. We need to prepare now for the wrenching political and economic reforms that will be necessary to ensure that technological unemployment is a boon for all, and not just an economic elite.

Mission Statement

For two hundred years there have been predictions that technological innovation would lead to widespread unemployment. Instead, jobs in factories opened as farm work declined, and then jobs in offices and services grew as factory work declined.

Today we are seeing the rapid transformation of work by robotics, artificial intelligence, the Internet, 3D manufacturing, synthetic biology and nanotechnology. Most economists and policy makers believe that these new technologies will again create as many new jobs as they make obsolete. At most, they believe there will be a need for educational innovation and work re-training to make the transition less painful.

But some have begun to argue that these innovations may finally create the long predicted decline of work. They point to the dwindling set of skills that humans can still do more cheaply and efficiently than machines, and are urging policy makers to take seriously the possibility of widespread technological unemployment in the coming decades.

This project aims to move the discussion about technological unemployment forward by engaging experts and policy makers involved in the study of technological unemployment, and by outlining the risks and benefits of the various policy responses that can be offered if technological unemployment begins to accelerate.

Specifically, through the Technological Unemployment program, the IEET addresses these questions:
  • Is there already net technologically-driven job loss, underemployment and precarity?
  • Is technology causing inequality (“skill-biased technological change”)?
  • Are there occupations that are immune to technological change? Can these occupations expand to absorb displaced workers?
  • What is the job creation potential of new technologies?
  • What will be the macroeconomic effects of technological unemployment?
  • How will technological unemployment interact with rising old age dependency and extending longevity?


Technopogressive List Technoprogressive Technoprogressive List
Discussion of technoprogressive public policy, especially technological unemployment and the basic income guarantee.


Links Special Issue of JET: Hughes, Walker, Campa & Danaher on Tech Unemployment and BIG

TP Wiki on Technological Unemployment

The Automated Economy on Facebook

Technological Unemployment Group on Google+

Martin Ford's Blog: EconFuture

Andrew McAfee's Blog: The Business Impact of IT

Basic Income Community on Reddit

US Basic Income Guarantee Network

Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN)



Books on Technological Unemployment and Political Economy Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, Martin Ford (2015)

The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee (2014)

Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, Nick Bostrom (2014)

Jobocalypse: The End of Human Jobs and How Robots will Replace Them, Ben Way (2013)

Robots Will Steal Your Job, But That's OK: how to survive the economic collapse and be happy, Federico Pistono (2012)



Political Economy Articles
Wellman and Rajan on the Ethics of Automated Trading Algocracy and Transhumanism Podcast

In this episode, IEET Affiliate Scholar John Danaher is joined by Michael Wellman and Uday Rajan. Michael is a Professor of Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Michigan; and Uday is a Professor of Business Administration and Chair and Professor of Finance and Real Estate at the same institution. Their conversation focuses on the ethics of autonomous trading agents on financial markets. We discuss algorithmic trading, high frequency trading, market manipulation, the AI control problem and more.

Listen Here

John Danaher
Building a Postwork Utopia by John Danaher

I have a new paper. It appears as a chapter in the book Surviving the Machine Age, which is edited by Kevin LaGrandeur and James Hughes. The book is, I believe, unique in how it brings together several different perspectives on what should and will happen to society in an era of rampant technological unemployment. It’s a little bit pricy, but I would recommend it for purchase by university libraries and the like.

Marcelo Rinesi
The insidious not-so-badness of technological underemployment, and why more education and better technology won’t help by Marcelo Rinesi

Mass technological unemployment is seen by some as a looming concern, but there are signs we’re already living in an era of mass technological underemployment. It’s not just an intermediate phase: its politics are toxic, it increases inequality, and it’s very difficult to get out of.

David Brin
Tax “reform” or not? by David Brin

In Edinburgh I just posed for pictures next to one statue of Hume and then in front of Adam Smith, the founder of liberal economics.

John G. Messerly
What Is The Point of Money? by John G. Messerly

Wealth is necessary in order to live well, but it is not sufficient. You may have lots of money but live terribly without friends or wisdom. You may have mistaken part of a good life—sufficient wealth to live—with the whole of the good life. For money isn’t an end in itself, it is merely a means to an end.

TEAM HUMAN: NO SHAME! TOWARDS A COOPERATIVE ECONOMY Team Human

We just posted an entirely actionable episode of Team Human, with the founder of the Net Party, Pia Mancini. It begins with a monologue by me about the way shame over everything from gender and sex to money inhibits our ability to forge solidarity – by design. That segues to a great discussion with Pia Mancini, who has built a new platform allowing cooperatives to collaborate and fund by leveraging the power of transparency. Again, breaking the self-destructive boundaries of shameful secrecy, we tap into the power of humans truly working t...

Jeffrey Sachs on Robotics, AI, and the Macro-Economy MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy

David Brin
Shifting views on immigration by David Brin

In 1939, the infamous ship St. Louis limped around the Atlantic and Caribbean with over 900 German Jews on board. Arm-twisted by the Nazis, but also shamefully, the United States and Cuba both refused sanctuary to the refugees. Eventually the ship returned to Germany and most of the passengers on board were eventually killed during the Holocaust.

Rick Searle
In defense of the administrative state by Rick Searle

A few weeks back Steve Bannon, Trump’s Rasputin-like chief strategists, while in a panel discussion at CPAC laid out the agenda for the new administration. According to Bannon that agenda consisted of three parts re- establishing national security and sovereignty, economic nationalism, and what he called “the deconstruction of the administrative state.” It was the latter which Bannon’s comments suggested was behind Trump’s otherwise Bizzaro cabinet appointments where, for instance, a raging opponent of environmental protections- Sc...

David Brin
Inconvenient facts: The future of news.. and “otherness” has been stolen! by David Brin

I recently spoke (via Beam robot) at a conference on “The Future of News Media” hosted by the Institute For The Future (IFTF), in San Francisco. An erudite gathering of concerned men and women from around the world discussed problems of Fake News, declining advertising revenues, state interference, self-censorship, and the web’s tendency to corral individuals into self-isolated pocket universes that reinforce their prejudices. In the short time allocated to me as kickoff speaker, I tried to give (ahem) ‘unusual perspectives’ on eac...