New report shows lessons from the past can help societies navigate an uncertain employment future

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Dr Frey said: “The hype might seem exaggerated for now, but over the next decades AI will have pervasive effects on productivity. There are many bottlenecks to technology adoption, so the mere existence of a new technology is not sufficient for it to find widespread use.

“Current productivity growth is therefore an inherently bad predictor of future productivity growth. In fact, in the early stages of development new technologies may even reduce productivity growth. Take, for example, the development of autonomous vehicles. The Brookings Institution estimates between 2014 and 2017 investments in autonomous driving amounted to roughly $80 billion, with very few first-case uses so far.”

The report also draws on Dr Frey’s new book, The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation (Princeton University Press).

He added: “Innovation itself is not what drives productivity growth. For productivity to grow technological innovations must find widespread use. The spread of every technology is a decision, and if the groups that stand to lose out from the technology are sufficiently powerful, they might succeed in blocking it. Progress is evidently not inevitable and for parts of the population it might not even be desirable.

“Technological change tends to come with creative destruction in employment, meaning there will always be both winners and losers, at least in the short run.”


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