Technological innovation has driven economic growth and dramatically boosted the quality of life over the last two centuries. Yet new technology sometimes creates short-term economic losers and spawns significant political opposition. New technologies disrupt existing industries and occupations; policymakers are often caught between divergent interests of influential incumbents and newcomers, sometimes hindering good policy. Today, new digital technologies are causing an unprecedented level of disruption, hence an acute need for understanding the actual impact of technology and an evidence-based policy analysis.
The Technology & Policy Research Initiative at Boston University School of Law conducts research on how technology affects the well-being of society as a whole: how technology affects incomes, why it sometimes creates greater inequality, what policies encourage both innovation and the skills and jobs that allow ordinary people to benefit from innovation, and how political economy shapes actual policy.
Our research is grouped into three wide-ranging areas:
- Workplace. Technology is transforming the workforce, but how? Is information technology creating persistent unemployment, as some claim, or does it, instead, create a “skills gap,” as others argue? What will be the impact of artificial intelligence technologies and robotics? The answers to such questions are important because they affect how new technology will be adopted and how the benefits of new technology will be shared.
- Innovation. What policy incentives encourage technological innovation, broad sharing of new knowledge, and widespread adoption of new technologies? What patent policies best encourage innovation and what policies, instead, create poorly defined property rights that generate excessive litigation, undermining innovation incentives?
- Dynamism. Technology benefits society when new knowledge is widely shared and can be put to new uses. This often happens when start-ups and spin-offs compete against established technologies and when employees change jobs. On the other hand, policies can be overly restrictive, hindering entry into new markets, new jobs, or new occupations. Research can evaluate the policy tradeoffs, explore what has led to declining economic dynamism and competition, and analyze the political economy of those changes.