Automation’s Impact on Jobs

Hyman on tap for congressional briefing about technology’s impact on workers
Associate Professor Louis Hyman
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Associate Professor Louis Hyman will speak at a congressional briefing Monday on the history of automation and jobs.

Sponsored by the National History Center, the event will address questions about technologies that have raised new fears about the future of work and how technological innovations transforming work in the past can inform the new wave of automation and its impact on employment.

The 10 to 11 a.m. event in the Rayburn House Office Building, Room 2045, is open to the public.

Hyman, director of ILR’s Institute for Workplace Studies and its Future of Work initiative, plans to present insight including:

  • The source of wealth in our economies for the past few hundred years has been rising productivity. Embedding knowledge, skill and strength into machines is nothing new. Artificial Intelligence will replace tasks, but will make all of us, if we learn how to harness it, into more productive and better-paid workers, just like other tools.
  • What is new today is not just technological change, but the possibility that workers might be able to be as productive on their own as within a firm, having access to the same global distribution and production regimes through digital platforms.
  • Today, as industrial jobs are being eliminated, we have a chance to rediscover this older American Dream of independent work. From 2005 to 2015, 94 percent of net new jobs came from outside full-time, permanent work. The employee receiving a regular wage or salary is giving way to independent contractors, consultants, temporary workers and freelancers.
  • By creating policies to support this new workforce, as we did for the industrial workforce, we can turn this productivity into prosperity. Embracing the new reality of flexible, digital work, rather than fighting it, we can find a way to provide a new American Dream that is, in essence, the oldest one of all: independence and security.

Hyman's research interests focus on the history of capitalism in the United States. His current research is on the rise of temporary labor in the postwar United States and its effects on the organization of American business

The Monday event is part of the history center’s congressional briefing program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. It seeks to provide congressional staff members, journalists and others historical context to current topics of current concern, said Dan Kennedy, center director.

The sessions are intended to be nonpartisan and to avoid advancing particular policy prescriptions, he said. The National History Center is affiliated with the American Historical Association.

Others slated to speak at the briefing are Amy Sue Bix of Iowa State University and Jonathan Coopersmith of Texas A&M University.