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The wrong kind of AI? Artificial intelligence and the future of labour demand


  • Daron Acemoglu
  • Pascual Restrepo


Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to influence every aspect of our lives, not least the way production is organised. AI, as a technology platform, can automate tasks previously performed by labour or create new tasks and activities in which humans can be productively employed. Recent technological change has been biased towards automation, with insufficient focus on creating new tasks where labour can be productively employed. The consequences of this choice have been stagnating labour demand, declining labour share in national income, rising inequality and lowering productivity growth. The current tendency is to develop AI in the direction of further automation, but this might mean missing out on the promise of the ‘right’ kind of AI, with better economic and social outcomes.

Suggested Citation

  • Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo, 2020. "The wrong kind of AI? Artificial intelligence and the future of labour demand," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 13(1), pages 25-35.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:cjrecs:v:13:y:2020:i:1:p:25-35.

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. The Wrong Kind of AI? Artificial Intelligence and the Future of Labor Demand
      by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2019-05-14 14:30:41


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    2. Anton Korinek, 2019. "Integrating Ethical Values and Economic Value to Steer Progress in Artificial Intelligence," NBER Working Papers 26130, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Katya Klinova & Anton Korinek, 2021. "AI and Shared Prosperity," Papers 2105.08475,
    4. Luigi Marengo, 2019. "Is this time different? A note on automation and labour in the fourth industrial revolution," Economia e Politica Industriale: Journal of Industrial and Business Economics, Springer;Associazione Amici di Economia e Politica Industriale, vol. 46(3), pages 323-331, September.
    5. Judith Clifton & Amy Glasmeier & Mia Gray, 2020. "When machines think for us: the consequences for work and place," Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, Cambridge Political Economy Society, vol. 13(1), pages 3-23.
    6. Nippani, Abishek, 2020. "Automation and Labour in India: Policy Implications of Job Polarisation pre and post COVID-19 crisis," SocArXiv h9gaw, Center for Open Science.
    7. Mutascu, Mihai, 2021. "Artificial intelligence and unemployment: New insights," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 653-667.
    8. Atheendar S Venkataramani & Rourke O’Brien & Gregory L Whitehorn & Alexander C Tsai, 2020. "Economic influences on population health in the United States: Toward policymaking driven by data and evidence," PLOS Medicine, Public Library of Science, vol. 17(9), pages 1-17, September.
    9. Demiralay, Sercan & Gencer, Hatice Gaye & Bayraci, Selcuk, 2021. "How do Artificial Intelligence and Robotics Stocks co-move with traditional and alternative assets in the age of the 4th industrial revolution? Implications and Insights for the COVID-19 period," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 171(C).
    10. Xie, Mengmeng & Ding, Lin & Xia, Yan & Guo, Jianfeng & Pan, Jiaofeng & Wang, Huijuan, 2021. "Does artificial intelligence affect the pattern of skill demand? Evidence from Chinese manufacturing firms," Economic Modelling, Elsevier, vol. 96(C), pages 295-309.
    11. Ballestar, María Teresa & Díaz-Chao, Ángel & Sainz, Jorge & Torrent-Sellens, Joan, 2021. "Impact of robotics on manufacturing: A longitudinal machine learning perspective," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 162(C).
    12. Sequeira, Tiago Neves & Garrido, Susana & Santos, Marcelo, 2021. "Robots are not always bad for employment and wages," International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 167(C), pages 108-119.
    13. Liu, Liang & Yang, Kun & Fujii, Hidemichi & Liu, Jun, 2021. "Artificial intelligence and energy intensity in China’s industrial sector: Effect and transmission channel," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 276-293.

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    More about this item


    automation; artificial intelligence; jobs; inequality; innovation; labour demand; productivity; tasks; technology; wages;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J23 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Labor Demand
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity


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