The Work of the Future. Shaping Technologies and Institutions.

2019 – Fall 2019 the Task Force on the Work of the Future of the MIT published a report to support public and private strategies to realize that new technologies will bring wealth and prosperity in the nations where they will be applied. They expect that the impact of new technologies will be enormous, comparable to the impact of developments in climate and environment.

The motivation to start this study is a paradox: In the VS and other industrialized countries unemployment is low and economic growth is high since WO-II, however the debate on new technologies to come is pessimistic. The reason for this paradox is that the last decennia there was a growth of productivity on the one side and a limited growth of income for the majority of the workers on the other.

Research question
The central question for this study was: which strategies and which investments of governments, companies and institutions will avoid the disruptive consequences of new technologies and support the contribution of new technologies to economic growth, prosperity, better working conditions, more economic security, health and life expectancy?

Premise and Analysis
Theunderlyingpremiseof the TF is that labor is intrinsically valuable for the individual and for society as a whole and we should try to improve it rather than eliminate it. The TF also thinks that new technologies can be used as complement of human work rather than replace it.
The TF starts with a historical perspective to describe what is new or different in the latest period. How do automation, digitalization robots and artificial intelligence influence the modern workplace, skills needed, employment and employment perspectives for today’s workers and the workers of the near future? The authors warn for ‘so-so technologies’ (Daron Acemoglu & Pascual Restrepo). That is technology that is disruptive for employment and that eliminates jobs without any contribution to productivity growth or improvement of the quality of services. The TF states that today and tomorrows problem is not ‘too less jobs’ but the accessibility of the jobs and the career perspectives these jobs offer especially to low educated employees.

Policy agenda
In the coming years the TF plans to investigate which institutions and investments – apart from education and training that are very important of course – are needed in the area of:

  • rebalancing fiscal policies; the TF refers to an imbalance in fiscal policies between the taxation of human versu physical capital investments that give firms an incentive to replace workers with tax-subsidized machinery. Instead: incentives to invest in human capital are needed.
  • recognizing workers as stakeholders; shareholders capitalism that is dominant especially in the US, fails to appropriately internalize the external costs that firms impose on workers and society. Workers fear the adverse consequences of automation, robots, AI etc. because rightly they perveive that they are not guaranteed to share in the productivity benefits of the new technologies. Somehow the voice of workers must be included in strategic decisions in firms.
  • innovations to complement workers; improving organizational and managerial practices that boost productivity by complementing workers, need to be a priority in companies and governments should disseminate know how on best management practices as they often do already about technological know-how.  
  • restoring technological leadership, for economic growth and beneficial leadership. 

Task Force on the Work of the Future: ‘The Work of the Future. Shaping Technologies and Institutions’. MIT Work of the Future, Fall 2019 report.
The report is attached.


Themes: Innovation and innovative capacity, innovative workplaces
Sector: n.a.
Source: Research report