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Back to the past: the historical roots of labour-saving automation

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  • Staccioli, Jacopo
  • Virgillito, Maria Enrica

Abstract

This paper, relying on a still relatively unexplored long-term dataset on U.S. patenting activity, provides empirical evidence on the history of labour-saving innovations back to early 19th century. The identification of mechanisation/automation heuristics, retrieved via textual content analysis on current robotic technologies by Montobbio et al. (2020), allows to focus on a limited set of CPC codes where mechanisation and automation technologies are more prevalent. We track their time evolution, clustering, eventual emergence of wavy behaviour, and their comovements with long-term GDP growth. Our results challenge both the general-purpose technology approach and the strict 50-year Kondratiev cycle, while provide evidence of the emergence of erratic constellations of heterogeneous technological artefacts, in line with the developmentblock approach enabled by autocatalytic systems.

Suggested Citation

  • Staccioli, Jacopo & Virgillito, Maria Enrica, 2020. "Back to the past: the historical roots of labour-saving automation," GLO Discussion Paper Series 721, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:glodps:721
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    Cited by:

    1. Damioli, Giacomo & Van Roy, Vincent & Vertesy, Daniel & Vivarelli, Marco, 2021. "Will the AI revolution be labour-friendly? Some micro evidence from the supply side," MERIT Working Papers 2021-016, United Nations University - Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT).
    2. Damioli, Giacomo & Van Roy, Vincent & Vertesy, Daniel & Vivarelli, Marco, 2021. "May AI Revolution Be Labour-Friendly? Some Micro Evidence from the Supply Side," IZA Discussion Papers 14309, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Enrico Santarelli & Jacopo Staccioli & Marco Vivarelli, 2021. "Robots, AI, and Related Technologies: A Mapping of the New Knowledge Base," LEM Papers Series 2021/01, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    4. 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.
    5. 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.
    6. Giacomo Damioli & Vincent Van Roy & Daniel Vertesy & Marco Vivarelli, 2021. "Detecting the labour-friendly nature of AI product innovation," DISCE - Quaderni del Dipartimento di Politica Economica dipe0017, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Dipartimenti e Istituti di Scienze Economiche (DISCE).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Labour-Saving Technologies; Search Heuristics; Industrial Revolutions; Wavelet analysis;
    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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