Abstract: Despite two centuries of rapid automation, there is no sign that we are running out of jobs. But skill demands and job opportunities are changing rapidly, creating some winners and many losers. Technological change is a critical driver of these developments, but it does not happen of its own accord. Rather, it is an outcome of incentives, institutional choices, and collective and individual values. Autor will discuss how technological change both automates and augments human labor, and how we can measure and distinguish these forces. While innovation is critical for solving society's most challenging problems, it matters not just whether we innovate but how and where we innovate: which jobs, skills, and people are automated and which are augmented. The majority of today’s jobs had yet to be invented a century ago. The jobs that we will create, and the labor market that workers will confront, depend in part on the investments that we make at present and the institutions that channel productivity into prosperity.
Bio: David Autor is Ford Professor in the MIT Department of Economics, codirector of the NBER Labor Studies Program, and coleader of both the MIT Work of the Future Task Force and the
JPAL Work of the Future experimental initiative. His scholarship explores the labor-market
impacts of technological change and globalization on job polarization, skill demands, earnings
levels and inequality, and electoral outcomes. Autor has received numerous awards for both his scholarship—the National Science Foundation CAREER Award, an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship, the Sherwin Rosen Prize for outstanding contributions to the field of Labor Economics, and the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2019—and for his teaching, including the MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellowship. Most recently, Autor received the Heinz 25th Special Recognition Award from the Heinz Family Foundation for his work “transforming our understanding of how globalization and technological change are impacting jobs and earning prospects for American workers”. In 2017, Autor was recognized by Bloomberg as one of the 50 people who defined global business. In a 2019 article, the Economist magazine labeled him as “The academic voice of the American worker”. Later that same year, and with (at least) equal justification, he was christened “Twerpy MIT Economist” by John Oliver of Last Week Tonight in a segment on automation and employment.