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Automation by its very nature eliminates human labor. Yet, as economist David Autor remarks, despite technological advances, the number of jobs is rising. As society edges toward a future where artificial intelligence reigns, how will the information age affect employment? getAbstract recommends Autor’s thoughtful, hopeful analysis of the future evolution of work to economists, policy makers and those who feel threatened by the imminent paradigm shift.


In spite of technological progress, the proportion of Americans in the workforce is higher today than at any time since 1890. For instance, despite the introduction of automated teller machines (ATMs), the number of US bank clerks has doubled since 1970. Why hasn’t automation eliminated human employment? Two economic principles offer an explanation. First, the “O-ring” principle, named for the cheap rubber O-ring that failed and caused the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986, explains that if one link in a production chain is flawed, the entire chain breaks down. When every link is weak, the import of ...

About the Speaker

Labor economist David Autor is Ford Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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