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Technological Change and Social Provisioning

Paper Session

Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM

Hilton Atlanta, Crystal F
Hosted By: Association for Evolutionary Economics & Association for Social Economics
  • Chair: John P. Watkins, Westminster College

Impact of Technology on Quantity and Quality of Jobs and Policies Need

F. Gregory Hayden
University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Paleoanthropologists have taught us that, in the earliest Homo-human history, technology, human cognition, and social institutions influenced each other and evolved together. They remain integrated in our complex social institutions today. Robert Owen and Clarence Ayres emphasized the importance of the human-technology relationship. This paper moves a step beyond Owen and Ayres by recognizing that humans are technology. Without the recognition of human technology, it is not possible to compare it with and evaluate how it should fit with other technologies. It is also not possible to adequately analyze and judge technological innovations, in general, without the use of social belief criteria. Furthermore, any such technological comparisons and evaluations should recognize that decreases in production are needed in order to deal with climate change.

The Robots, the Jobs, and the Future of our World

Torsten Heinrich
Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), University of Oxford
Svenja Flechtner
University of Siegen


We investigate the social and economic effects of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. Automation in itself is not new. It led to social conflict in early 19th century Britain, caused the mode of production and consumption to change substantially over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, and may have contributed to unemployment in recent decades. However, the transition to the industrial scale deployment of AI may have much larger effects. The advent of the self-driving car will make the jobs of taxi and truck drivers obsolete. Bookkeepers, secretaries, and even some creative professions may to a large extent suffer the same fate. The universal collection of personal data and their use in targeted marketing and political advertising could lead to the end of meaningful privacy, and the management of misinformation and echo chambers in social media threatens the democratic process. At the same time, it has huge potential to improve emergency services, may allow working time reductions and easier access to information and education, and provide more affordable consumption goods. It also has benefits to the profession of economics itself: areas of application range from banking stress tests to understanding the product space and its role for economic development to agent-based modelling in evolutionary economics and beyond. After considering the history of automation and the analysis of its economic effects by classical scholars like Veblen, Marx, and Myrdal, we highlight the differences to the present development and offer a consideration of likely effects and potential policy measures.

Brave New World? The Impact of Robotics on Work, Pay, and Economic Institutions

Daphne T. Greenwood
University of Colorado-Colorado Springs


Technological change (especially robotics and artificial intelligence) provide both an opportunity and a challenge to the current economic system. They have the potential to provide such abundance that the austerity argument becomes meaningless, but they are likely to do so in ways that skew wage and income distributions even more. The challenge is to modify political and economic institutions to create meaningful work for all who want it (based on Veblen’s instinct of workmanship and the need for work apart from income) but to assure basic incomes that enable people to function well as citizens and parents. The paper will explore job guarantees such as the employer of last resort, along with universal basic incomes and other more modest proposals.

Theory and Reality of Cryptocurrency Governance

Antoon Spithoven
Utrecht University


Elinor Ostrom elaborated a meta-framework for analyzing self-governing systems. I apply her Institutional Analysis and Development framework and its eight design principles of institutions for self-governing systems to analyze the development of self-governing cryptocurrency transaction systems such as the bitcoin. The bitcoin is an example per excellence of peer-to-peer, free of third-party authority systems, which aim to establish trust in financing transactions, and to lower transaction cost by eliminating monitoring authorities and by making exchange rates redundant. The bitcoin challenges the dominant paradigm of monetary systems. However, cryptocurrency are also used for tax evasion, illegal transactions, and speculation. The use of cryptocurrency for illegal transactions and speculation, centralization tendencies, and the energy cost of mining cryptocurrencies seize the discussion at the cost of attention for the context within which the bitcoin is crafted: endogenous money supply and the greed of employees of banks. In order to curtail the excrescences of cryptocurrencies, different agents concentrate on different issues: Governmental authorities focus on regulating cryptocurrency exchanges, and prohibiting trade cryptocurrency derivatives; The media have the power to enable public discourse and to redirect the public discussion how to improve financial competition; Banks may ban cryptocurrency transactions. All this might be paired by policies to reestablish trust in the financial system and by laws to accommodate blockchain technologies in order to foster efficiency in financial transactions. The cryptocurrency software protocols and blockchain technologies are promising types of innovation and may influence the financial sector radically.

The Uncertainty of Academic Rent and Income Inequality: The OECD Panel Evidence

Kosta Josifidis
University of Novi Sad
Novica Supic
University of Novi Sad


The paper presents an alternative view on the education – income inequality relationship, which calls into question the neoclassical claim that education increases labor productivity and hence contributes to a higher output, wage and consequently more even income distribution. In the context of public policies, education needs to be seen not only as a factor of income mobility but also as a “positional good”, which benefits graduates at the expense of non-graduates. Education generates “academic rent”, by which we mean uneven remuneration of workers based on academic signs of distinctions that do not necessarily reflect differences in productivity. Using the robust panel model on a sample of OECD countries from 1980 to 2015, we show that investments in human capital lead to lower inequality, but overinvestments tend to increase income inequality, which may be related to academic rent. In discussing this result, we consider that uncertainty of academic rent under the condition of a rapid transformation of the workplace caused by the fourth industrial revolution.
Avraham Izhar Baranes
Rollins College
JEL Classifications
  • O3 - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights
  • B5 - Current Heterodox Approaches