Is Automation Labor-Displacing? Productivity Growth, Employment, and the Labor Share

Is Automation Labor-Displacing? Productivity Growth, Employment, and the Labor Share. Brookings Institution. David Autor and Anna Salomons. March 8, 2018

 Is automation a labor-displacing force? This possibility is both an age-old concern and at the heart of a new theoretical literature considering how labor immiseration may result from a wave of “brilliant machines,” which is in part motivated by declining labor shares in many developed countries. Comprehensive evidence on this labor-displacing channel is at present limited. Harnessing a model from Acemoglu and Restrepo (2018), the authors first outline the various channels through which automation impacts labor’s share of output. They then turn to empirically estimating the employment and labor share impacts of productivity growth—an omnibus measure of technological change—using data on 28 industries for 18 OECD countries since 1970. Their main findings are that although automation has not been employment-displacing, it has reduced labor’s share in value added. They disentangle the channels through which these impacts come about by considering both the effects occurring within the advancing industry and spillovers onto the industry’s suppliers and customers, and by separately estimating the wage, output, and price responses to automation. Their estimates highlight that the labor share-displacing effects of productivity growth, which were absent in the 1970s, have become more pronounced over time, largely because of a weakening wage response. This finding is consistent with automation having become less labor-augmenting over time. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [PDF format, 75 pages].


Evolving Assessments of Human and Natural Contributions to Climate Change

Evolving Assessments of Human and Natural Contributions to Climate Change. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Jane A. Leggett. February 1, 2018

 This CRS report provides context for the Administration’s Climate Science Special Report (October 2017) by tracing the evolution of scientific understanding and confidence regarding the drivers of recent global climate change.

 [PDF format, 25 pages].

Blockchains Will Change the Way the World Votes

Blockchains Will Change the Way the World Votes. Center for Strategic & International Studies. Phillip Meylan, Daniel F. Runde. January 26, 2018

 Amid the clamor around bitcoin’s ascendant (now descendant) value, the potential of a far greater contributor to society has been clouded. Bitcoin—which has in recent months been both the godsend and the bane of speculative investors around the world—is made possible by its underlying blockchain technology. Lauded as a technological innovation on the same magnitude as the internet, blockchains at their simplest are diffuse electronic ledgers that garner efficiency, transparency, and remarkable security through a decentralized structure. You don’t have to understand everything about the underlying technology to see how such a system could have a significant impact on our lives.

Blockchains are now being adopted globally for things as diverse as smart contracts, property rights, health care, and humanitarian assistance. But, blockchains also have enormous potential to revolutionize the way elections are conducted. If implemented correctly, such systems could mobilize new electorates, increase voter participation, reduce election violence, and make elections more secure and reliable than ever before. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

 [HTML format, various paging].

Eleven Facts about Innovation and Patents

Eleven Facts about Innovation and Patents. Brookings Institution. Jay Shambaugh, Ryan Nunn, and Becca Portman. December 13, 2017

Improvement in living standards over time is not inevitable or automatic. Rather, it is made possible by increases in physical and human capital, technological progress that itself might require large investments, and well-designed institutions. In this set of eleven economic facts, the authors explore central features of the innovation system, including patents, research and development (R&D) investments, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Following this analysis, they highlight opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of the innovation system, thereby contributing to faster technological progress and economic growth. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 28 pages, 1.43 MB].

The National Science Foundation: FY2018 Appropriations and Funding History

The National Science Foundation: FY2018 Appropriations and Funding History. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Laurie A. Harris. November 2, 2017

The National Science Foundation (NSF) supports basic research and education in the non-medical sciences and engineering. NSF is a major source of federal support for U.S. university research, especially in certain fields such as computer science. It is also responsible for significant shares of the federal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education program portfolio and federal STEM student aid and support.

[PDF format, 20 pages, 1.12 MB].

Open Science: The Citizen’s Role in and Contribution to Research

Open Science: The Citizen’s Role in and Contribution to Research. RAND Corporation. Anna Knack. October 11, 2017.

The report synthesises the results of an expert consultation on ‘citizen science,’ which refers to the range of contributions citizens make to scientific research. It investigates definitions of citizen science and dissects the benefits and challenges that citizen science poses across the spectrum of stakeholders involved in citizen science activity. The report then illustrates the results of a future vision-building exercise and explores the critical role that digital technology plays in enabling participants’ future vision of citizen science and addressing the various challenges. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 23 pages, 319.11 KB].

Fostering Innovation in U.S. Law Enforcement: Identifying High-Priority Technology and Other Needs for Improving Law Enforcement Operations and Outcomes

Fostering Innovation in U.S. Law Enforcement: Identifying High-Priority Technology and Other Needs for Improving Law Enforcement Operations and Outcomes. RAND Corporation. John S. Hollywood et al. August 30, 2017.

The National Institute of Justice tasked RAND to host a panel of law enforcement experts to identify high-priority needs for innovation in law enforcement, covering advances in technology, policy, and practice. The needs discussed in this report can help prioritize research, development, and dissemination efforts in ways that will provide the greatest value to law enforcement practitioners.

The panel identified four top findings. First, there is a need to improve practitioners’ knowledge of available research and technology, starting with a central knowledge repository and research on how to improve dissemination and training methods. Second, there is a need for practices and technologies to improve police-community relations, both to improve encounters with the public and to improve community relations more broadly. Third, there is a need to improve the sharing and use of information in a range of ways. These include means to get crime analysis capabilities to all agencies (including small and disadvantaged agencies), software development to reduce information overload, and model proposal and contract language to make systems interoperable. Fourth, there is a need to reduce backlogs in forensic processing; panelists suggested broadening U.S. Department of Justice forensic grants outside of DNA to help address the backlogs.

Additional high-priority needs included further development of policies and use cases for unmanned aerial vehicles, best practices for selecting and using personal gear, and improving defenses against active shooters. The latter included improving both suspicious activity reporting processes and efforts to educate the public on responding to an active shooter. There is also a need for a review of technologies that might improve officers’ health. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 152 pages, 1.61 MB].