Robots are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement

57 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2015 Last revised: 20 Sep 2021

See all articles by Seth Benzell

Seth Benzell

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics; MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy; Stanford University, Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Digital Economy Lab

Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Boston University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy

Guillermo Lagarda

Global Development Policy Center Boston University

Jeffrey D. Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2015

Abstract

Will smart machines do to humans what the internal combustion engine did to horses – make them obsolete? If so, can putting people out of work or, at least, good work leave them unable to buy what smart machines produce? Our model’s answer is yes. Over time and under the right conditions, supply reduces demand, leaving everyone worse off in the long-run. Carefully crafted redistribution policies can prevent such immiserating growth. But blunt policies, such as limiting intellectual property rights or restricting labor supply, can make matters worse.

Suggested Citation

Benzell, Seth and Kotlikoff, Laurence J. and Lagarda, Guillermo and Sachs, Jeffrey D., Robots are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement (February 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w20941, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2565620

Seth Benzell (Contact Author)

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

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MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy ( email )

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Stanford University, Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence Digital Economy Lab ( email )

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Laurence J. Kotlikoff

Boston University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Gaidar Institute for Economic Policy

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Guillermo Lagarda

Global Development Policy Center Boston University ( email )

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Jeffrey D. Sachs

Columbia University - Columbia Earth Institute ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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