Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

Intelligent Machines and Displaced Workers

The rise of so-called smart machines will challenge a fundamental feature of economic life: Most people gain their income by selling their labor. So what will happen when the labor of a large number of workers is displaced by technology or no longer commands an income adequate to provide a minimally decent standard of living?

BERKELEY – In their compelling new book The Second Machine Age, Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee document the progress in artificial intelligence that is enabling computers to exceed what they were capable of only a few years ago. The leaps in machine intelligence, along with the connection of human beings around the world in a common digital network, will enable the development of new technologies, goods and services.

The authors are optimistic about the “bounty” or economy-wide benefits of brilliant machines. But they warn that the distribution or “spread” of these benefits will be uneven.

Their fears are justified. During the last three decades, even before breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, computers have been replacing and multiplying the physical labor of human beings. Improvements in computer and communications technologies have also enabled employers to offshore many routine tasks that machines cannot directly replace.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/yIOEZZ6;
  1. op_dervis1_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images_PutinXiJinpingshakehands Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

    Cronies Everywhere

    Kemal Derviş

    Three recent books demonstrate that there are as many differences between crony-capitalist systems as there are similarities. And while deep-seated corruption is usually associated with autocracies like modern-day Russia, democracies have no reason to assume that they are immune.

    7