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The present, past, and future of labor-saving technologies

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  • Jacopo Staccioli
  • Maria Enrica Virgillito

Abstract

The present chapter provides a historical reappraisal of labor-saving technologies. It reviews and systematizes theoretical contributions and empirical findings documenting the presence of labor- and time-saving heuristics in innovative efforts back since the First Industrial Revolution. More in detail, with the help of various patent analyses, the chapter documents the presence of labor-saving heuristics in the latest wave of technological innovation, detecting the human functions substituted by the underlying technologies. Against a reductionist approach conceiving robots as the only threat for labor displacement, it shall be argued that labor-saving technologies consist of a complex and heterogeneous bundle of innovations uncovering a much wider set of artifacts and functions. Motivated by the recurrent debate on the threats of automation occurring in the last couple of centuries, evidence is provided on the existence of long waves and clusters in relevant innovations, discussing how the overall cluster of labor-saving technologies consists of heterogeneous and often independent innovations following remarkably different time-trajectories. The chapter closes with an outline of potential future trends in labor-saving technologies and room for policy actions.

Suggested Citation

  • Jacopo Staccioli & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2020. "The present, past, and future of labor-saving technologies," LEM Papers Series 2020/37, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  • Handle: RePEc:ssa:lemwps:2020/37
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Giovanni Dosi & Marcelo C. Pereira & Andrea Roventini & Maria Enrica Virgillito, 2021. "Technological paradigms, labour creation and destruction in a multi-sector agent-based model," LEM Papers Series 2021/17, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Human-Machine Relationship; History of Technology; Labor-Saving Heuristics.;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
    • C38 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Multiple or Simultaneous Equation Models; Multiple Variables - - - Classification Methdos; Cluster Analysis; Principal Components; Factor Analysis
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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