In Issues in Science and Technology, Atkinson reviews "The Second Machine Age" by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. "The Second Machine Age" is the latest example of a wave of “innovation optimist” writing that holds that technological change is accelerating, leading to vast new innovations and profound transformation. But Atkinson argues that the evidence does not warrant such utopianism. Moreover, the authors’ continued fanning of the flames of neo-Luddite fears of wide-scale job loss from innovation not only are not borne out by history or analysis, they encourage the public and policy makers to want to slow, rather than accelerate innovation.
Robots Are Not the Problem
Despite the claims of many Luddites, automation and technology promote business development and international competitiveness, raising employment in the long run. To create the right economic policy framework, we need to overcome the simplistic fears of robots stealing our jobs and focus on the broader needs of an innovation and technology based economy.