National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

To study the Economics of Digitization and of Artificial Intelligence in a newly unified Working Group that covers both topics

  • Amount $974,520
  • City Cambridge, United States
  • Investigator Catherine Tucker
  • Year 2023
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Economics

When Sloan helped launch an NBER Working Groups on Digitization in 2010 and another on Artificial Intelligence in 2017, there were only scattered researchers studying the economics of these topics. Since then, three developments are especially notable: Both groups have produced blockbuster research. Topics range from the gig economy to the surveillance economy, and from employee selection to employee displacement. While some has been done by distinguished senior faculty, also contributing fresh perspectives are the hundreds of junior faculty who participated in mentoring and training programs run by these two Working Groups for graduate students from departments that did not yet have inhouse expertise. The pace of advances in digital technology and artificial intelligence has only accelerated. So concepts, findings, and models that seemed to explain a great deal just a few years ago now have much more explaining to do. The need for creative and careful research in these areas has, despite significant progress, become even more urgent. Although they started as distinguishable topics, research on Digitization and on AI are converging. The people, problems, and principles associated with one subfield are increasingly the same as those associated with the other. Given that we cannot continue funding both communities indefinitely anyway, a plan was hatched to merge the two working groups going forward. Catherine Tucker of MIT, a leader of the Digitization group, and Avi Goldfarb from the University of Toronto, a leader of the AI Group, will form a unified program dedicated to 'Digital Economics and the Use of AI.' Over the next three years, the combined group will concentrate on (i) the impact of digital technologies on the nature of work, (ii) political economy and digital technology (including surveillance, media, and political protest), and (iii) the relationship between competition and innovation for digital technology. That work will be facilitated by activities that have proven successful to date, including workshops for PhD students, spring and fall meetings in San Francisco and Toronto, respectively, as well as a very popular session at the NBER Summer Institute. The Sloan Economics Program is always looking for ways to help grantees make the whole more than the sum of the parts. In this case, merging two successful Working Groups should result in even greater research on society’s most pressing questions about the economics of digital technologies.

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