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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
A drumbeat of studies has pushed back hard against concern over the accelerated automation of factories and other businesses, predicting that — just as industrial age advances have always done — robots will produce many more jobs than they destroy.
Coming from Acemoglu and Restrepo, two of the field's most respected scholars, the papers could seriously undercut a flood of corporate and non-profit think tank studies that have downplayed and even ridiculed alarm about the new age of automation.
The big picture: A vexing aspect of the long U.S. economic expansion has been persistently flat wages and sluggish productivity: Semiconductors keep improving and digitalization spreading, yet fundamental economic measures of American well-being have lagged.
Acemoglu and Restrepo pin the blame on automation:
In an interview, Acemoglu said that while prior technological cycles have killed many jobs, businesses and government have taken other actions that have counter-balanced the loss. Primarily, towering new technologies have spawned a lot of new industries and jobs.
"It's about choices," Acemoglu tells Axios. "So far, we've used our know-how singularly automating at the expense of labor. If we keep on doing that, we will keep on destroying more jobs without job gains. It's completely our decision."
Go deeper: The revolution need not be automated
The race is on — between American and Chinese companies alike — to get U.S. consumers to pay for everything with their phones. But as the chart above makes plain, that market barely exists.
Erica writes: Alipay — the mobile payment app from Ant Financial, Alibaba's fintech spinoff — has established a beachhead in the U.S., expanding to thousands of pharmacies, convenience stores and the Mall of America.
But, but, but: As Axios' Dion Rabouin reports, the U.S. is growing increasingly out of step with the rest of the world. In China and India, cash is quickly becoming obsolete, and in Europe, paying with the phone is catching on as well. But Americans remain attached to their cards.
What to watch: Mobile wallets will start to grab more of the U.S. market in the next five years, says Peterson. The big area for U.S. growth is through contactless cards in mobile wallets that enable "tap and go" paying, he says — but that still keeps cards front and center.
Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty
It's spring and soon will be summer. Five new and forthcoming books are already on our reading list. Let us know what's on yours.
1. Big Business: A Love Letter to an American Anti-Hero, by Tyler Cowen (out today)
2. The Adventures of Alexander von Humboldt, by Andrea Wulf (out April 2)
3. Upheaval: Turning Points for Nations in Crisis, by Jared Diamond (out May 7)
4. Dignity: Seeking Respect in Backrow America, by Chris Arnade (out June 4)
5. The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation, by Carl Frey (out June 18)
Three so-called millennial victims: mayo, American cheese and beer. Photo: Getty
As we've reported, millennials have been blamed for the death of American classics like cheese, mayo and beer. But millennials aren't just bulldozing these industries on a whim — they just prefer healthier, more natural foods.
Erica writes: Millennials aren't being un-American in their rejection of Kraft singles, as some of their detractors suggest. There are other food trends that are pushing them away from previous generations' favorites, per a new report from market research firm CB Insights.