The Work of the Future: Shaping Technology and Institutions


MIT President Rafael Reif convened the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future in the spring of 2018.

Its goals are to understand the relationships between emerging technologies and work and to explore strategies to enable a future of shared prosperity. The Task Force is co-chaired by Professors David Autor and David Mindell, with Dr. Elisabeth Reynolds as Executive Director; its members include more than twenty faculty drawn from twelve departments, as well as a dozen graduate students. The Task Force has also been advised by boards of key stakeholders from industry, academia, education, labor, and philanthropy. For the past year, the Task Force has been working to bring grounded, empirical understanding and insight into the ongoing debate about what is occurring today and what we can expect in the next decade.

Alarmist rhetoric animates today’s public conversation about technology and work: Robots are taking our jobs. AI will mean the end of work. Three-fourths of all jobs will be automated. Prepare for mass unemployment. Robots can’t take your job if you’re retired.

These forecasts may be unduly grim, but they reflect valid underlying concerns. Technological and economic shifts have created social pain in wide swaths of industrialized economies. The last four decades of U.S. history showed that even if technological advances deliver rising productivity, there is no guarantee that the fruits of this bounty will reach the typical worker—and the uncertainty is greater still for women and minorities. These discouraging facts may help to explain why, despite the tightest U.S. labor market in decades, a substantial majority of people believe that emerging technologies will magnify inequality and make high-paying jobs harder to find.

With these uncomfortable truths in mind, MIT’s Task Force on the Work of the Future aims to identify a constructive path forward—grounded in evidence of what is happening today, deploying deep expertise in technology and the social sciences, and applying reasonable assumptions and extrapolations to anticipate what might happen tomorrow.

This report will not provide definitive answers but instead aims to enable decision-makers to ask the right questions. Due to the urgency of the topic, we offer preliminary insights that may help to frame public debate and public policy as Task Force members conduct deeper analyses and deliver a final report.


MIT The Work Of The Future I

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