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Technology and Inequality - Fall 2017

Professor Yochai Benkler

Since the late 1970s, income for the median worker in the United States has stagnated, and since 2002 income of the bottom 80% of the workforce has stagnated or fallen. At the same time, productivity has increased, and the share of income and wealth held by the top 1% and the top 0.1% has increased substantially. Technology is often posited as the cause of rising inequality in the past forty years, and AI, automation, and platforms like Uber are often blamed for increasing the prevalence of precarious work and economic insecurity.  

The course will consider the role of technological change in shaping social and economic patterns, focusing in particular on the distribution of wealth in society. It is intended to foster an understanding of institutional design sensitive to the multi-dimensional causes of complex social problems.  Here, we consider how technology has interacted with law, politics, ideology, and culture to bring us to our present state, and project these dynamics forward. We will consider whether technologies like robotics, platforms, 3D printing, and platforms can be harnessed toward producing arrangements conducive to broad-based economic security. Can technology be a complete or partial solution? Can it be integrated with cooperative, commons-based, non-profit, municipal, or entrepreneurial models to offer systemic solutions?

For more information about this course visit the Harvard Law School Course Catalog