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Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement

Author

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  • Seth G. Benzell
  • Laurence J. Kotlikoff
  • Guillermo LaGarda
  • Jeffrey D. Sachs

Abstract

Will smart machines do to humans what the internal combustion engine did to horses – make them obsolete? If so, can putting people out of work or, at least, good work leave them unable to buy what smart machines produce? Our model’s answer is yes. Over time and under the right conditions, supply reduces demand, leaving everyone worse off in the long-run. Carefully crafted redistribution policies can prevent such immiserating growth. But blunt policies, such as limiting intellectual property rights or restricting labor supply, can make matters worse.

Suggested Citation

  • Seth G. Benzell & Laurence J. Kotlikoff & Guillermo LaGarda & Jeffrey D. Sachs, 2015. "Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement," NBER Working Papers 20941, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20941
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E24 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Employment; Unemployment; Wages; Intergenerational Income Distribution; Aggregate Human Capital; Aggregate Labor Productivity
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • O30 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - General
    • O40 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - General

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