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Robots and the Future of Work

Daron Acemolu, MIT

This session draws a distinction between "enabling technologies", which increase worker productivity in existing tasks or enable them to perform new tasks, and "replacing technologies", which take over tasks previously performed by workers. While the first increases wages and employment, the latter could have the opposite effect. Newer technologies, in particular robotics and AI, are of the replacing kind. Evidence shows that the spread of robotics so far has indeed had a negative impact on employment and wages in the United States. Examine the important policy steps that can be taken to increase the productivity gains from these new technologies and turn their impact on employment and wages from negative to positive.

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