Computers and Populism: Artificial Intelligence, Jobs and Politics in the Near Term

39 Pages Posted: 28 Dec 2017 Last revised: 16 Jan 2018

Frank S. Levy

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning

Date Written: January 15, 2018

Abstract

I project the near-term future of work to ask whether job losses induced by artificial intelligence will increase the appeal of populist politics. The paper first explains how computers and machine learning automate workplace tasks. Automated tasks help to both create and eliminate jobs and I show why job elimination centers in blue collar and clerical work – an impact similar to that of manufactured imports and offshored services. I sketch the near-term evolution of three technologies aimed at blue collar and clerical occupations: autonomous long-distance trucks, automated customer service responses and industrial robotics. I estimate that in the next five-to-seven years, the jobs lost to each of these technologies will be modest but visible. I then outline the structure of populist politics. Populist surges are rare but a populist candidate who pits “the people” (truck drivers, call center operators, factory operatives) against “the elite” (software developers, venture capitalists) will be mining many the U.S. regional and education fault lines that were part of the 2016 presidential election.

Keywords: Populism, Artificial Intelligence, Computers, Future of Work

Suggested Citation

Levy, Frank S., Computers and Populism: Artificial Intelligence, Jobs and Politics in the Near Term (January 15, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3091867 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3091867

Frank S. Levy (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Urban Studies & Planning ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Room 9-316
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States
617-253-2089 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://dusp.mit.edu/faculty/frank-levy

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