Technological Unemployment and Socio-Economic Development: Historical Perspectives and the Future

Author(s): Todd J. Barry, Melissa K. Aho

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Abstract: Since the time of the Classical economists, such as Malthus, Ricardo, then to Marx and Keynes, dozens of scholars have made predictions using economic theory about the future, and whether technology will someday displace all workers, often called "technological unemployment."  The theory that is generally held is that "marginal productivity" essentially determines hiring and wages.  Along with this, popular science fiction since the advent of the Space Age has created folklore over what robots and super computers might bring.  As developed countries advance, we already see large changes in income inequality which may be due to the newest technological changes, leaving vast amounts of workers unskilled, and an elite class of experts in computer technologies.  Some current leading minds, from Hawking, to Gates, to Musk, have weighed in on this reemerging subject, with dire warnings.  How accurate are their concerns?  Although predictions about the future are usually wrong, this paper uses economic theory, as well as past misconceptions about the future, and events that are transpiring today to conjecture about the many ways technology in general may affect socio-economic life in developed and developing countries in the coming years.

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