Directed Technological Change and Good Jobs
Is it time to direct technological change in a labour friendly way? This question was discussed by Anton Korinek, Elisabeth Reynolds, and Ana Dujić.
PUBLISHED17. OCTOBER 2022
READING TIME4 MIN
During the high-times of market-liberalism technological disruptions were considered as given and driven by free competition. Critics like Daron Acemoglu, Dani Rodrik, Stefanie Stantcheva and others have started to question this paradigm. Shall politicians steer innovation towards technologies that save work and qualified jobs instead of letting good jobs be replaced by robots and alike?
"The goal of the future is full unemployment, so we can play."
With this quote, Anton Korinek (Brookings Institute) ended his introductory presentation in the last session on directed technological change of our Good Jobs workshop. In his remarks it became clear, however, that whilst this thought-provoking vision could potentially serve as a long-term goal, the reverse is true for the short-term. According to Korinek, the great challenges posed by the labour saving nature of Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems poses on welfare systems and job markets have to be addressed by directing technological change in a labour friendly way: enhancing worker’s opportunities and well-being and strengthening demand for labour.
Liz Reynolds, who co-led the MIT program on the future of work with David Autor and David Mindell and recently worked at the National Economic Council for the Biden administration, agreed that workers have unequally benefitted from productivity growth in recent decades and that the main problem is not the quantity, but the quality of work. Nevertheless, she underlined the opportunities connected to technological progress which could be reaped in a socially desirable way. For this, she emphasised the role of institutions such as unions, minimum wages, or anti trust regulations.
"Technology is endogenous, not exogenous and something we can actually direct and have over decades. Institutions are something that we absolutely can put a thumb on the scale for [...] President Biden has provided a new vision for a modern American industrial strategy, one in which equity is at the centre of it and one that shifts away from financialization and rising inequality."
Approaching the topic from a German perspective, Ana Dujić, who is head of an innovation lab on the future of work in the German Federal Ministry of Labour, talked about recent advances to regulate AI systems and other digital technologies on the EU-level. She disagreed with Anton Korinek that digitisation is not a limit to progress and social goals, but at the same time stressed that labour protection is given high priority, especially in the platform economy.