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Visions of Automation: A Comparative Discussion of Two Approaches

Institute for Technology Assessment and Systems Analysis (ITAS), Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, 76133 Karlsruhe, Germany
Academic Editors: Bettina-Johanna Krings, António B. Moniz, Oriol Homs, Ilona Bučiūnienė and Csaba Makó
Societies 2021, 11(2), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc11020063
Received: 23 April 2021 / Revised: 14 June 2021 / Accepted: 15 June 2021 / Published: 16 June 2021
In recent years, fears of technological unemployment have (re-)emerged strongly in public discourse. In response, policymakers and researchers have tried to gain a more nuanced understanding of the future of work in an age of automation. In these debates, it has become common practice to signal expertise on automation by referencing a plethora of studies, rather than limiting oneself to the careful discussion of a small number of selected papers whose epistemic limitations one might actually be able to grasp comprehensively. This paper addresses this shortcoming. I will first give a very general introduction to the state of the art of research on potentials for automation, using the German case as an example. I will then provide an in-depth analysis of two studies of the field that exemplify two competing approaches to the question of automatability: studies that limit themselves to discussing technological potentials for automation on the one hand, and macroeconomic scenario methods that claim to provide more concrete assessments of the connection between job losses (or job creation) and technological innovation in the future on the other. Finally, I will provide insight into the epistemic limitations and the specific vices and virtues of these two approaches from the perspective of critical social theory, thereby contributing to a more enlightened and reflexive debate on the future of automation. View Full-Text
Keywords: automation; methodology; Frankfurt School; technological potential; future studies; job loss automation; methodology; Frankfurt School; technological potential; future studies; job loss
MDPI and ACS Style

Frey, P. Visions of Automation: A Comparative Discussion of Two Approaches. Societies 2021, 11, 63. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc11020063

AMA Style

Frey P. Visions of Automation: A Comparative Discussion of Two Approaches. Societies. 2021; 11(2):63. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc11020063

Chicago/Turabian Style

Frey, Philipp. 2021. "Visions of Automation: A Comparative Discussion of Two Approaches" Societies 11, no. 2: 63. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc11020063

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