MIT Work of the Future

The remarkable progression of innovations that imbue machines with human and superhuman capabilities is generating significant uncertainty and deep anxiety about the future of work. Whether and how our current period of technological disruption differs from prior industrial epochs is a source of vigorous debate. But there is no question that we face an urgent sense of collective concern about how to harness these technological innovations for social benefit. To meet this challenge, the Institute launched the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future in spring 2018.

Project website.

The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines

As this report documents, the labor market impacts of technologies like AI and robotics are taking years to unfold. But we have no time to spare in preparing for them. If those technologies deploy into the labor institutions of today, which were designed for the last century, we will see similar effects to recent decades: downward pressure on wages, skills, and benefits, and an increasingly bifurcated labor market. This report, and the MIT Work of the Future Task Force, suggest a better alternative: building a future for work that harvests the dividends of rapidly advancing automation and ever-more powerful computers to deliver opportunity and economic security for workers. To channel the rising productivity stemming from technological innovations into broadly shared gains, we must foster institutional innovations that complement technological change.

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The Work of the Future: Shaping Technology and Institutions

The world now stands on the cusp of a technological revolution in artificial intelligence and robotics that may prove as transformative for economic growth and human potential as were electrification, mass production, and electronic telecommunications in their eras. New and emerging technologies will raise aggregate economic output and boost the wealth of nations. Will these developments enable people to attain higher living standards, better working conditions, greater economic security, and improved health and longevity? The answers to these questions are not predetermined. They depend upon the institutions, investments, and policies that we deploy to harness the opportunities and confront the challenges posed by this new era.

How can we move beyond unhelpful prognostications about the supposed end of work and toward insights that will enable policymakers, businesses, and people to better navigate the disruptions that are coming and underway? What lessons should we take from previous epochs of rapid technological change? How is it different this time? And how can we strengthen institutions, make investments, and forge policies to ensure that the labor market of the 21st century enables workers to contribute and succeed?

To help answer these questions, and to provide a framework for the Task Force’s efforts over the next year, this report examines several aspects of the interaction between work and technology.

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