Nathan Thrall Longlist Interview
6 October 2023
How does it feel to be longlisted?
We are thrilled. We wrote the book hoping to reach a broad audience and inclusion on the Baillie Gifford longlist suggests that this is happening.
How did you conduct your research?
We read a lot of history, looking at past big shifts in technology. We combined these stories with insights from our decades of academic research to make sense of it all – and to build a coherent narrative.
How do you envision this book and your proposed strategies being used in the future when developing new technologies to ensure shared prosperity?
We are encouraged that people are starting to rethink what we should expect from technology, what “automation” means, and how to ensure we create more good jobs. We hope that the idea of using generative AI to make all workers more productive – rather than replacing and sidelining workers – gives readers a new perspective on what future can be created.
What case study from the past do you think best demonstrates how the path of technology can be brought under control?
We like the advent of railways in the 1830s and 1840s. This was a symbolic moment of change in the Industrial Revolution, with the focus shifting from automation and heavy-handed surveillance to an effort to increase the productivity of all workers. The benefits were felt throughout the economy, and wages started to rise across the board.
What are you working on next?
We are co-directors of the Shaping the Future of Work Initiative at MIT. This is a multi-year effort to understand how technology can be redirected to create good jobs for workers of all skill levels and more broadly share prosperity.