utomation has become somewhat of a dirty word recently. Fear of mass unemployment and widening inequality has led to calls for greater regulations of technology companies, expanded programs of redistribution, and even a "robot tax" to discourage adoption of labor-saving technologies. These fears, however, focus too much on the short-term disruption that creative destruction brings, ignoring the long-term opportunities for human advancement that comes along with it.
Throughout history, technologies that automate labor have been crucial to emancipating people from grueling work and giving them more opportunity to pursue fulfilling careers. While inventions like the printing press reduced the demand for calligraphers, it simultaneously increased the opportunity to write and spread one's message, leading to far greater social opportunity.
Thomas Davenport of MIT and Julia Kirby of Harvard University Press, who have worked on the implications of automation, argue that there have been three broad eras of automation starting with the Industrial Revolutions, then the Computer Age, and now the age of Artificial Intelligence that we are living through.