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Authors’ response to Unjournal evaluations of “Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth”

Authors’ response to Unjournal evaluations of “Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth”

Published onMar 16, 2023
Authors’ response to Unjournal evaluations of “Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth”

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Reply to Unjournal Evaluations of "Artificial Intelligence and Economic Growth"

Philippe Aghion, Benjamin Jones, and Charles I. Jones

February 2023

Thanks to Seth and Phil for their careful, thorough, and generous reading of our paper. They make many excellent points, and we agree with them all.

Before commenting on some specifics, we'll take this opportunity to reminisce a bit about the backstory behind this paper. Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, and Avi Goldfarb organized the inaugural NBER conference on The Economics of Artificial Intelligence. They solicited authors from across the different subfields of economics, including each of us independently, and put together a phenomenally broad and interesting set of experts. The three of us had all thought a bit about the growth consequences of artificial intelligence, but many of our thoughts were nebulous and not obviously suited to a standard economics journal. The conference organizers suggested we might work together, and we quickly agreed. Great fun ensued!

So that's part of the explanation as to why, as both reviewers indicate, the paper reads to a great extent as a bunch of different ideas and suggestions, rather than a laser-like focus on a single idea that is worked through thoroughly. We found it intriguing that the Baumol-like forces that make some essential tasks hard to automate might constrain the effects of automation. But we also found it fascinating that it is easier than we had guessed to get explosive growth and singularities, even without complete automation. Our hope then and now is that these ideas will stimulate researchers to work on this topic.

And now an important mea culpa: we apologize for the embarrassing number of typos and for one significant mistake that Phil caught and corrected (in the proof of the singularity in Example 3 on page 256). We maintain a "corrected proof" on our web pages that includes all corrections we've found or received, and we'll continue to do that.

Seth raises many interesting points, especially about what might happen if the saving rate were endogenized. He is surely right that it would be interesting to push our work in this direction, and his research on this topic highlights several insights.

Each of the referees’ suggestions (endogenous labor supply, the effect of automation on politics and growth policy, endogenous savings, endogenizing the automation of research tasks…) deserves a paper on its own. And when commenting on Section 5, the referees accurately stress that the remarks laid out in that section remain speculative and deserve deeper analyses. Here it may be worth mentioning that each of us separately are pursuing the “AI-Automation” research agenda in ways that partly intersect with the referee’s comments. For example, Seth puts forward the idea that AI should lead to more centralization and favor the emergence of super-star firms. A recent paper entitled “A Theory of Falling Growth and Rising Rents” develops and calibrates a growth model where the IT revolution leads in this direction. The bottom line is that the effect of IT and AI revolutions on long-run productivity growth can become negative if competition policy does not adapt.

As we thought about the topic of artificial intelligence and economic growth, what stood out most to us is the incredible range of possibilities. Both evaluations correctly point out that this remains a wide-open area for more research, both on the theory side and certainly in terms of using evidence to help convert the possibilities to probabilities. Thanks again for the excellent and insightful evaluations.

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