NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement

Seth G. Benzell, Laurence J. Kotlikoff, Guillermo LaGarda, Jeffrey D. Sachs

NBER Working Paper No. 20941
Issued in February 2015, Revised in March 2016
NBER Program(s):Economic Fluctuations and Growth, Labor Studies, Public Economics, Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship

Will smart machines replace humans like the internal combustion engine replaced horses? If so, can putting people out of work, or at least out of good work, also put the economy out of business? Our model says yes. Under the right conditions, more supply produces, over time, less demand as the smart machines undermine their customer base. Highly tailored skill- and generation-specific redistribution policies can keep smart machines from immiserating our posterity. But blunt policies, such as mandating open-source technology, can make matters worse.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w20941

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