The Economics of Artificial Intelligence

19 Pages Posted: 31 Jan 2017 Last revised: 20 Dec 2018

Date Written: December 20, 2018


We apply the perspectives of social ontology and the “Brisbane Club” of evolutionary economists to characterise the economics of artificial intelligence technology. We consider the nature of artificial intelligence and defend the notion that it is a technology which seeks to replicate the workings and evolution of the human mind in the mechanical structure of a computer. We discuss how this creates, in principle, a state of substitutability between human labour and artificial intelligence which invites concerns about mass unemployment alongside hopes of significant production possibilities. We also, however, identify caveats to this principle which mean that there is a range of human labour which cannot yet be feasibly substituted for by artificial intelligence technology, and for which there is still yet a future. We identify a range of specific distinctions between human labour and artificial intelligence as a result of our approach which defines this range of human labour for which there is a future. This advantage of our approach also allows us to consider some specific practical measures which might be adopted to seize the opportunities offered by artificial intelligence technology while minimising its downside risks.

Keywords: Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Computer Science, Mind, Labour, Substitutability

JEL Classification: D04, D24, D31, D46, D63, I21, I29, O33

Suggested Citation

Markey‐Towler, Brendan, The Economics of Artificial Intelligence (December 20, 2018). Available at SSRN: or

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