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A World Without Work: Technology, Automation, and How We Should Respond (Hardcover)
A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
From an Oxford economist, a visionary account of how technology will transform the world of work, and what we should do about it
From mechanical looms to the combustion engine to the first computers, new technologies have always provoked panic about workers being replaced by machines. For centuries, such fears have been misplaced, and many economists maintain that they remain so today. But as Daniel Susskind demonstrates, this time really is different. Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence mean that all kinds of jobs are increasingly at risk.
Drawing on almost a decade of research in the field, Susskind argues that machines no longer need to think like us in order to outperform us, as was once widely believed. As a result, more and more tasks that used to be far beyond the capability of computers – from diagnosing illnesses to drafting legal contracts, from writing news reports to composing music – are coming within their reach. The threat of technological unemployment is now real.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, Susskind emphasizes. Technological progress could bring about unprecedented prosperity, solving one of humanity’s oldest problems: how to make sure that everyone has enough to live on. The challenges will be to distribute this prosperity fairly, to constrain the burgeoning power of Big Tech, and to provide meaning in a world where work is no longer the center of our lives. Perceptive, pragmatic, and ultimately hopeful, A World Without Work shows the way.
About the Author
Daniel Susskind is the coauthor of The Future of the Professions, named as one of the best books of the year by the Financial Times, New Scientist, and the Times Literary Supplement. He is a fellow in economics at Balliol College, Oxford. Previously, he was a policy adviser for the prime minister’s strategy unit and a senior adviser in the cabinet office of the British government.
“Compelling... Thought-provoking... Should be required reading for any potential presidential candidate thinking about the economy of the future.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“Susskind guides the reader through a boneyard of discredited assumptions about technological unemployment… An explainer rather than a polemic, written in the relentlessly reasonable tone that dominates popular economics: the voice of a clever, sensible man telling you what’s what.”
“Convincing and illuminating... A complex yet lucid and surprisingly optimistic account from the frontlines of technology addressing the challenges facing the human workforce.”
“Susskind’s book is so timely, to miss it might be downright irresponsible.”
“A superb and sophisticated contribution to the debate over work in the age of artificial intelligence. Susskind approaches the discussion with a great command of the evidence and with excellent judgment. Never glib, consistently wise and well informed, this is the book to read to understand how digital technologies and artificial intelligence in particular are reshaping the economy and labor market, and how we will live alongside increasingly smart machines.”
—Jeffrey Sachs, author of The End of Poverty
“Susskind has written a fascinating book about a vitally important topic—and he writes with such elegance that you don’t even notice how much you’re learning. Original and compelling.”
—Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist
“This is the book to read on the future of work in the age of artificial intelligence. It is thoughtful and state of the art on the economics of the issue, but its real strength is the way it goes beyond just the economics. A truly important contribution that deserves widespread consideration.”
—Lawrence H. Summers
“Eloquent and humane, A World Without Work moves the debate beyond the illusion that technology always creates more jobs than it destroys. It provocatively explores the role of work in human life, and what to do when that role evaporates.”
—Stuart Russell, author of Human Compatible
“Daniel Susskind offers an authoritative and hype-free perspective on how technology will change work. This eloquent and humane book deserves wide readership—and wide influence.”
—Martin Rees, author of On the Future
“An important book on an equally important topic. Susskind’s conclusion is that ultimately there will be less paid work to go around. This will shake the foundations of our economy and our society. It will be a daunting challenge. We have to start thinking hard about it now.”
—Martin Wolf, author of The Shifts and the Shocks