“A lot of historical evidence shows the process [of adjusting to transformative technologies] is a painful one…. At the same time, we are capable technologically and socially of creating many new jobs that will take people to new horizons in terms of productivity and freedom from the hardest types of manual labor.”
—Daron Acemoglu, Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics (MIT News, February 1, 2018)
In November 2017, MIT hosted a two-day conference titled “AI and the Future of Work.” As David Autor, MIT’s Ford Professor of Economics, noted during one session, a recent Pew Research Center survey indicates that Americans “are surprisingly aware, and worried, and rather negative” about the trajectory of the job market. “The public is broadly supportive of workplace automation being limited to dirty and dangerous jobs,” Autor reported—even as most people “are positive about the impact that technology has had on their work.”
Shortly after that conference, MIT launched a Task Force on the Work of the Future, which will conduct an empirical, interdisciplinary, and global study of how new developments in AI, automation, information technology, 3-D printing, and other areas of innovation are reshaping traditional jobs and the workplace.
The Institute-wide effort consists of 20-plus faculty and student members, as well as an external advisory board, and will draw upon the Institute’s considerable existing expertise on this topic. Its leadership team includes Autor as well as David Mindell PhD ’96, the Frances and David Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing, and professor of aeronautics and astronautics; and Elisabeth Reynolds PhD ’10, executive director of the MIT Industrial Performance Center and a lecturer in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.