The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation

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Description

How the history of technological revolutions can help us better understand economic and political polarization in the age of automation

From the Industrial Revolution to the age of artificial intelligence, The Technology Trap takes a sweeping look at the history of technological progress and how it has radically shifted the distribution of economic and political power among society's members. As Carl Benedikt Frey shows, the Industrial Revolution created unprecedented wealth and prosperity over the long run, but the immediate consequences of mechanization were devastating for large swaths of the population. Middle-income jobs withered, wages stagnated, the labor share of income fell, profits surged, and economic inequality skyrocketed. These trends, Frey documents, broadly mirror those in our current age of automation, which began with the Computer Revolution.

Just as the Industrial Revolution eventually brought about extraordinary benefits for society, artificial intelligence systems have the potential to do the same. But Frey argues that this depends on how the short term is managed. In the nineteenth century, workers violently expressed their concerns over machines taking their jobs. The Luddite uprisings joined a long wave of machinery riots that swept across Europe and China. Today's despairing middle class has not resorted to physical force, but their frustration has led to rising populism and the increasing fragmentation of society. As middle-class jobs continue to come under pressure, there's no assurance that positive attitudes to technology will persist.

The Industrial Revolution was a defining moment in history, but few grasped its enormous consequences at the time. The Technology Trap demonstrates that in the midst of another technological revolution, the lessons of the past can help us to more effectively face the present.-- "The Economist"

Product Details

Price
$29.95  $27.55
Publisher
Princeton University Press
Publish Date
June 18, 2019
Pages
480
Dimensions
6.5 X 1.7 X 9.3 inches | 2.1 pounds
Language
English
Type
Hardcover
EAN/UPC
9780691172798
BISAC Categories:

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About the Author

Carl Benedikt Frey is the Oxford Martin Citi Fellow and codirector of the Oxford Martin Programme on Technology and Employment at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford. He is also a senior fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at Oxford and in the Department of Economic History at Lund University. Twitter @carlbfrey

Reviews

"There is little reason to doubt the contemporary relevance of Frey's analysis into the consequences of automation on the labour market, and the broader socio‐political implications of those technological changes which are highly anticipated to reshape our working lives and economic existence as we know it. The voluminous public commentary about technology, and public protests against the ramifications of technology change (such as taxi drivers decrying peer‐to‐peer ride‐sharing services which rely on smartphone apps), serve as sufficient warrant to pay attention to Frey's contribution."---Mikayla Novak, Economic Record
"University of Chicago 2019 Recommended Reading"
"Anybody interested in the economic impact of digital and AI, in particular on jobs, will want to read Carl Frey's new book."---Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist
"As [Frey] points out in his new book The Technology Trap, for all that the robots may make the world more local, they may have other painful side-effects, putting millions of people out of work and sparking an almighty backlash."---Ed Conway, The Times
"The Technology Trap is a subtle, wide-reaching exploration of the relationship between technology and labor over centuries of history. Frey shows how the impacts of automation upon the British and American workforce have been shaped by changing power structures. In its attention to the detailed determinants of change, his book is a hugely welcome antidote to today's surfeit of sweeping predictions about the future of work."--Robert Skidelsky, University of Warwick
"In this book, Carl Frey brings a new perspective, that of historical experience, to tackle some of the most important issues of our time. Offering the clearest account that I have read in quite a while regarding current problems around employment, technology, economic performance, and globalization, Frey provides the technological background to Thomas Piketty's analysis of inequality, Capital in the Twenty-First Century."--Jane Humphries, University of Oxford
"Carl Frey's highly original, admirably engaging, and deeply researched book should be read by anyone interested in how technological change will disrupt not only our jobs, but also our politics and society. By comparing the current age of disruptive technological change with the Industrial Revolution, The Technology Trap provides unique and timely insights which we ignore at our peril."--Ian Goldin, coauthor of Age of Discovery
"How will artificial intelligence affect the future of work? In The Technology Trap, Frey answers this question through a comprehensive, insightful analysis of the relationship between technological advances and work, from preindustrial society through the Computer Revolution. He predicts that intelligent machines will reduce the demand for human labor while yielding significant productivity gains. Societies will differ in how they choose to distribute these gains."--Laura Tyson, University of California, Berkeley
"[Frey] takes a provocative, original long view on current concerns, examining the fallout from past technological advances . . . to mass production and artificial intelligence."---Andrew Hill, Financial Times, Summer Books of 2019
"Frey offers a refreshingly human-centered analysis of technological progress."---Oscar Schwartz, Stanford Social Innovation Review
"One of the Financial Times' Summer Books of 2019: Business"
"Carl Benedikt Frey has written an important and timely book . . . . A great deal of effort, thought, and scholarship went into its writing, and it shows. There is much food for thought here and I can envision this assigned in upper division economics classes as well as some graduate courses."---Alexander Field, EH.net
"Anybody interested in the economic impact of digital and AI, in particular on jobs, will want to read [The Technology Trap]."---Diane Coyle, Enlightened Economist
"Will machines equipped with artificial intelligence render the human race redundant? Is work as we know it about to end? The Technology Trap draws on the experiences of the first and second Industrial Revolutions, and the first Computer Revolution, to answer some of the burning questions of our time. Frey's key point--that technological disruption of the labor market is usually painful in the short run, whatever innovation's long-run benefits--is of vital importance to voters and policymakers alike." --Niall Ferguson, author of The Square and the Tower
"The Technology Trap may well ensnare doom-seekers' attention with its ominous-sounding title. But it should ultimately hearten anyone who reads it."--The Economist
"If you're an optimist about the robotic future, you likely hear talk that we're all going to lose our jobs or suffer a big pay cut, and tell friends to relax -- the new technology revolution is going to turn out like all the others since the dawn of the Industrial Age. But if history is your best hope, you should probably think again: [The Technology Trap has] a strong case."---Steve Levine, Axios
"Frey's analysis is worth taking seriously because the Oxford economic historian and economist has researched his subject deeply and has co-authored one of the most widely cited studies on automation . . . . Frey's story is well argued and -- at times -- deeply alarming about the stability of western democracies given he predicts the further concentration of wealth in a few hands and in even fewer locations"---John Thornhill, Financial Times
"A fascinating history of technical change."---Chris Dillow, Stumbling and Mumbling
"The Technology Trap is the perfect book for higher ed people to read . . . . deeply researched and [convincingly] argued."---Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Education
"One of Frey's most salient points is that our attitudes and actions toward technology can play a pivotal role in how it impacts us. A lot of stock has been put into Frey and Osborne's prediction of 47 percent automation. But if Frey's book gets even half the attention the paper got, it should serve to quell some of our fears around a bleak machine-dominated future."---Vanessa Bates Ramirez, Singularity Hub
"I have been lost in [The Technology Trap] for the last 10 days."---John Harris, The Guardian
"In his bracing new book The Technology Trap, Carl Frey extrapolates from the history of the industrial revolution to offer a vision of the future in which Amazon Go, AI assistants and autonomous vehicles are 'worker replacement' technologies."---Greg Williams, Wired
"Frey explores automation and its consequences, taking the reader on a long sweep of UK and US industrial history that demonstrates the distinction between labour-enabling and labour-replacing technologies. . . As arguably the most comprehensive account of automation to date, this book deserves to be read widely"---Liam Kennedy, London School of Economics Review of Books
"It's clear The Technology Trap has plenty to teach us, and should automatically be on the reading list of any serious policy maker or politician."---Ben Ramanauskas, Cap X
"[The Technology Trap] offers a fascinating history of technology's effects on employment from the Industrial Revolution to today and attempts to tackle how we might avoid a repeat of past social ills, as the Computer Revolution sweeps away a majority of human jobs."---Robert Elliott Smith, Medium
"Narrator Richard Lyddon performs an almost impossible feat--making a very theoretical audiobook sound absorbable in a truly entertaining way . . . . Cheers to both Frey and Lyddon, a pairing that listeners may wish to hear again."--AudioFile Magazine
"An extremely useful history of the effect of technology on jobs and income inequality."---John Judis, The National Interest
"An excellent analysis of past industrial revolutions, the technologies that emerged within them, and the way societies adapted to those changes."---Adi Gaskell, Forbes
"[E]rudite and thoughtful, and the questions [The Technology Trap] raises are important and pertinent."---Joel Mokyr, Journal of Economic History
"[Frey] investigates the short, medium, and long-term consequences of the Industrial Revolution on workers, finding that in fact the changes had extraordinarily negative consequences in the short term. His lessons from this pivotal moment in history can help technology leaders avoid the biggest risks today in how we design human/AI systems in the coming age of automation."--TechCrunch
"One of Five Books' Best Economics Books of 2019"
"One of the Financial Times' Best Books of 2019: Technology"
"12 must-read books for 2019 as recommended by Tech Crunch's Extra Crunch readers"
"I highly recommend [The Technology Trap]."---Randal C. Picker,
"Magisterial."---Chris Gibbons, Acumen
"One of Época Negócios's Best Books of 2019"
"Excellently written, full of examples and studies I hadn't previously encountered, and I learned a lot."---Tim Harford,
"[The Technology Trap] is a reminder that the future of work depends on policy choices. It is well worth reading."---Ravi Venkatesan, Book Review Literacy Trust
"Excellent."---Masood Ahmed, CGD Policy Blog
"One of Handelsblatt's Best Technology Books of 2019"
"A . . . danger is that Luddite efforts to avoid the short-term costs associated with a new technology will end up denying access to its long-term benefits--something Carl Benedikt Frey, an Oxford academic, calls a 'technology trap'."--The Economist
"Frey's observations and detailed historical analysis are useful for even those of us who cling to a more optimistic view of the long run."---Law & Liberty, Michael C. Munger
"One of Project Syndicate Commentators' Best Reads in 2019"
"[A] historical odyssey."---Jane Humphries and Benjamin Schneider, Project Syndicate