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Benign Effects of Automation: New Evidence from Patent Texts
CATO
2024.01.02
What is the effect of automation technology on employment? This question has received significant attention in public discourse and among researchers, but answers differ widely and depend on the definition of automation. In economics, automation is often understood as a type of labor­?saving technology that reduces the demand for human workers at specific tasks. But automation technology could also create new products or lead to productivity improvements with no immediate replacement of human labor. Examples are printers, adaptive cruise control, and programs for automatic email management, which do not necessarily automate existing human tasks but may still affect employment. Our research finds that automation increases total employment, but the effect varies by industry.