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Two Myths About Automation

While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

BERKELEY – Robots, machine learning, and artificial intelligence promise to change fundamentally the nature of work. Everyone knows this. Or at least they think they do.

Specifically, they think they know two things. First, more jobs than ever are threatened. “Forrester Predicts that AI-enabled Automation will Eliminate 9% of US Jobs in 2018,” declares one headline. “McKinsey: One-third of US workers could be jobless by 2030 due to automation,” seconds another.

Reports like these leave the impression that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically. But there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the United States and across the advanced-country world.

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