In this report, the Institute for Public Policy Research look at how public policy should seek to accelerate automation and how this could lead to productivity benefits. It sets out five propositions for how this could be achieved.
As machines become increasingly capable of performing tasks once thought to be the sole preserve of people, some commentators have raised the spectre of mass unemployment and profound economic disruption. Yet despite the growing capability of robots and artificial intelligence, we are not on the cusp of a 'post-human' economy. Automation will produce significant productivity gains that will reshape specific sectors and occupations. In aggregate, however, these gains are likely to be recirculated, with jobs reallocated rather than eliminated, economic output increased, and new sources of wealth created.
The critical challenge of automation is likely to be in distribution rather than production. If the benefits are fairly shared, automation can help build an economy where prosperity is underpinned by justice, with a more equitable distribution of wealth, income and working time. But there is no guarantee that this will occur. Managed poorly, automation could create a 'paradox of plenty': society would be far richer in aggregate, but, for many individuals and communities, technological change could reinforce inequalities of power and reward.
The pace, extent, and distributional effects of automation will be determined by our collective choices and institutional arrangements, and the broader distribution of economic power in society.