Steve Lohr at the New York Times: “Daron Acemoglu, an influential economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been making the case against what he describes as “excessive automation.”
The economywide payoff of investing in machines and software has been stubbornly elusive. But he says the rising inequality resulting from those investments, and from the public policy that encourages them, is crystal clear.
Half or more of the increasing gap in wages among American workers over the last 40 years is attributable to the automation of tasks formerly done by human workers, especially men without college degrees, according to some of his recent research…
Mr. Acemoglu, a wide-ranging scholar whose research makes him one of most cited economists in academic journals, is hardly the only prominent economist arguing that computerized machines and software, with a hand from policymakers, have contributed significantly to the yawning gaps in incomes in the United States. Their numbers are growing, and their voices add to the chorus of criticism surrounding the Silicon Valley giants and the unchecked advance of technology.
Paul Romer, who won a Nobel in economic science for his work on technological innovation and economic growth, has expressed alarm at the runaway market power and influence of the big tech companies. “Economists taught: ‘It’s the market. There’s nothing we can do,’” he said in an interview last year. “That’s really just so wrong.”
Anton Korinek, an economist at the University of Virginia, and Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel economist at Columbia University, have written a paper, “Steering Technological Progress,” which recommends steps from nudges for entrepreneurs to tax changes to pursue “labor-friendly innovations.”
Erik Brynjolfsson, an economist at Stanford, is a technology optimist in general. But in an essay to be published this spring in Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he warns of “the Turing trap.” …(More)”