The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines
Why the United States lags behind other industrialized countries in sharing the benefits of innovation with workers and how we can remedy the problem.
The United States has too many low-quality, low-wage jobs. Every country has its share, but those in the United States are especially poorly paid and often without benefits. Meanwhile, overall productivity increases steadily and new technology has transformed large parts of the economy, enhancing the skills and paychecks of higher paid knowledge workers. What’s wrong with this picture? Why have so many workers benefited so little from decades of growth? The Work of the Future shows that technology is neither the problem nor the solution. We can build better jobs if we create institutions that leverage technological innovation and also support workers though long cycles of technological transformation.
Building on findings from the multiyear MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future, the book argues that we must foster institutional innovations that complement technological change. Skills programs that emphasize work-based and hybrid learning (in person and online), for example, empower workers to become and remain productive in a continuously evolving workplace. Industries fueled by new technology that augments workers can supply good jobs, and federal investment in R&D can help make these industries worker-friendly. We must act to ensure that the labor market of the future offers benefits, opportunity, and a measure of economic security to all.
Praise for The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines
"A timely book."
—the Wall Street Journal
"The authors push back on the notion that technological advances will lead to the elimination of countless jobs in the future.Technological change, they emphasize, takes time to unfold and creates new job opportunities even while destroying old ones.In fact, public policy has been more important than technology in shaping labor-market outcomes, specifically for less skilled workers without college degrees. Although all advanced economies have experienced technological change, the United States has seen a sharper divergence between productivity and wages, a more dramatic decline in labor’s share of national income, and a more pronounced rise in poorly compensated jobs, all as a result of policy, not technology.These economic trends and their social and political consequences, the authors argue, can be reversed by an increase in the federal minimum wage, which would spur employers to take steps to boost the productivity of low-paid workers; by legal changes that enhance the ability of workers to organize and represent themselves collectively."
"Building on their joint work for the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future, Autor, Mindell, and Reynolds present an excellent, easy-to-read summary of the ways in which advanced technologies have affected labor markets both before and during the pandemic. The text is organized into two parts to align with the driving idea that both institutional innovations and complementary technical advances are needed. The first part provides a broad overview of labor markets, the development of technologies over time, and the ways those technologies impact labor markets. Part 2 examines what is needed to reform US institutional policies with respect to technology and labor so as to bring the country out of its current state—too many low-wage jobs—and "towards [a] shared prosperity" in which workers can also benefit from economic growth. Most of the book represents continuation of the existing discussion from previous task force publications and thus covers familiar ground for those acquainted with the project. Nevertheless, the volume will still be a useful addition to most library shelves."
"The book provides a valuable catalog of specific policy initiatives that could make a difference."