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.
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?
Discussion of technoprogressive public policy, especially technological unemployment and the basic income guarantee.
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