Could Machine Learning be a General-Purpose Technology? Evidence from Online Job Postings

52 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2019

See all articles by Avi Goldfarb

Avi Goldfarb

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Bledi Taska

Burning Glass Technologies

Florenta Teodoridis

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Date Written: October 12, 2019

Abstract

There has been a great deal of speculation that machine learning might be a general-purpose technology. However, the commercial application of machine learning is relatively new and general-purpose technologies are typically identified with the benefit of many years of hindsight. For managers deciding on technology strategy, this classification will come too late. In this paper, we provide an approach to identifying a general-purpose technology before it has widely diffused, so that the classification can be used to inform decisions about technology adoption. Using data from online job postings, we compare machine learning to eight other emerging technologies in terms of breadth of industries with job postings, the importance and breadth of research roles, and the costs of innovation in organizational practices. Our results show that ML is particularly likely to be a general-purpose technology. This finding suggests that firms adopting ML should be patient, should expect to implement changes to organizational processes, and should recognize that their industries are likely to change as a result. In contrast, firms adopting other technologies should look for more direct and tangible benefits.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, general purpose technology, innovation, technological innovation, technological advancement, job postings

JEL Classification: O30, O31, O33

Suggested Citation

Goldfarb, Avi and Taska, Bledi and Teodoridis, Florenta, Could Machine Learning be a General-Purpose Technology? Evidence from Online Job Postings (October 12, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3468822 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3468822

Avi Goldfarb

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada
416-946-8604 (Phone)
416-978-5433 (Fax)

Bledi Taska

Burning Glass Technologies ( email )

One Lewis Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
United States

Florenta Teodoridis (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

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