According to MIT economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, we are standing on the threshold of a «second machine age». 3D-printing, autonomous cars, speech recognition and cheap, flexible robots all herald a new era where the norm is abundance rather than scarcity. As they succinctly put it: «Computers and other digital advances are doing for mental power … what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle power».
The picture is, however, not entirely rosy; there is a worry that this development might eventually lead to fewer jobs, and a widened income gap. Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne have analysed how susceptible different kinds of jobs are to be taken over by new technology. They conclude that low-skill, low-income jobs are most exposed, and estimate that as much as 47% of US employment is at risk of being eradicated.
On this basis, a crucial issue for all economies will be how to take advantage of technological development, without at the same time raising the unemployment rate. The risk for jobless growth is therefore a paradox to be taken seriously.
We hope that the contributions in this report will make it possible for different nations and regions to exchange knowledge and experiences on all these pressing affairs. Because of the increasingly globalised world we now live in and the rapid diffusion of technology, few challenges are contained within one region or country. By describing challenges and policies, in different countries and regions, we hope policy makers will be aided in their efforts to develop effective strategies for the future.