A businesswoman giving a presentation Cecilie_Arcurs/Getty Images

The Not-So-Dire Future of Work

The current debate about technological change often skews toward the melodramatic, foretelling a future in which machines, algorithms, and lines of code drive humans out of work. But, with smart, forward-looking policies, we can meet the coming challenges head on – and ensure that the future of work is a better job.

WASHINGTON, DC – The future of work is a hot topic nowadays. It has inspired a seemingly endless train of analyses, commentaries, and conferences, and it featured prominently in last week’s annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. For good reason: new technologies – namely, digitization, robotics, and artificial intelligence – have far-reaching implications for employment. But, contrary to how the story is often framed, a happy ending is possible.

The current debate often skews toward the melodramatic, foretelling a future in which machines drive humans out of work. According to some bleak estimates, 47% of jobs are at risk in the United States; 57% in the OECD countries; two thirds in developing economies; and half of all jobs globally (around two billion).

But similarly dire predictions of large-scale job destruction and high technology-driven structural unemployment accompanied previous major episodes of automation, including by renowned economists. John Maynard Keynes offered one; Wassily Leontief provided another. Neither materialized. Instead, technological change acted as a powerful driver of productivity and employment growth.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

To read this article from our archive, please log in or register now. After entering your email, you'll have access to two free articles from our archive every month. For unlimited access to Project Syndicate, subscribe now.

required

By proceeding, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, which describes the personal data we collect and how we use it.

Log in

http://prosyn.org/xFwqiOB;

Handpicked to read next

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.