Saturday, 15 February 2014: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM
Water Tower (Hyatt Regency Chicago)Public anxiety about the adverse effects of technological change on employment and earnings dates back at least as far as the Industrial Revolution when, in the early 19th century, a group of English textile artisans calling themselves the Luddites staged a “machine trashing” rebellion, destroying the automated looms that would, they feared, reduce the demand for their skills. Economists have consistently derided these concerns, arguing that those who fear technological unemployment are succumbing to a “lump of labor” fallacy. In the last decade, this consensus has begun to erode, with some prominent economists opining that this time is different—specifically, that the rapid advance of information technology, computer perception, and robotics implies that humans are on the verge of being eclipsed by machinery in many employment spheres. In this symposium, prominent economists with divergent perspectives informed by history, data, and theory will critically evaluate this evolving debate to consider both the aggregate benefits and potential social costs of rapid technological progress, and to explore the set of public investment and social insurance policies that can best prepare countries to maximize gains and minimize adverse impacts from recent and incipient technological advances.
David H. Autor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology