MIT Work of the Future Task Force – final report

November 17, 2020
Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 |

To the members of the MIT community,

In the fall of 2017, President Reif issued a call to action, for the nation and especially for MIT:

Automation will transform our work, our lives, our society. Whether the outcome is inclusive or exclusive, fair or laissez-faire, is up to us. Getting this right is among the most important and inspiring challenges of our time – and it should be a priority for everyone who hopes to enjoy the benefits of a society that’s healthy and stable, because it offers opportunity for all. In this work, those of us leading and benefiting from the technology revolution must help lead the way.

In response, in February 2018, we announced the formation of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future – and today, it released its final report, The Work of the Future: Building Better Jobs in an Age of Intelligent Machines.

The report provides insight into how new technologies are changing the nature of work and what institutional reforms are needed to support workers and promote broader shared prosperity. The report will be featured in a virtual conference event tomorrow, Wednesday, November 18, the AI & the Future of Work Congress, hosted by the task force, the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE), and CSAIL. Tickets are complimentary for the MIT community if you register with an MIT email and this code: MITcomm20. We encourage you to attend to hear these important conversations.

The work of the task force represents the distinctive strengths of the MIT community, integrating ideas from economics, engineering, computer science, political science, history, anthropology, urban planning, management, and more. Task force members worked collaboratively with leaders in industry, government, labor, education, and the nonprofit sector, from around the world and across the US, including from those regions hardest hit by job loss. Together, they tackled three questions:

  • How are emerging technologies transforming the nature of human work and the skills that enable people to thrive in the digital economy?
  • How can we shape and catalyze technological innovation to complement and augment human potential?
  • And how can our civic institutions – existing and new – ensure that the gains from these emerging innovations contribute to equality of opportunity, social inclusion, and shared prosperity?

The report’s policy recommendations focus on investing in fresh approaches to skill building and education, improving job quality, and expanding and shaping innovation. Policy and institutional reform are particularly needed at a time when Covid-19 has exposed many of the weaknesses in our labor market and social insurance system for workers.

Read more about the task force’s findings on MIT News.

The task force – the first step of MIT’s commitment in this area – will conclude its assignment this year. Yet research on the work of the future will continue to flourish through the efforts of task force members, several Institute research centers, and a new, cross-cutting strategic area of inquiry in the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing on the social, economic, and ethical implications of computing and networks. As the work of the future evolves, our work to comprehend it will keep pace as well.

Understanding technology as a tool that we can shape to address society’s most pressing problems is central to MIT’s way of looking at the world. In its forthright, rigorous, practical approach, this report is quintessentially MIT. It represents an important contribution to the national conversation about building a future that serves all Americans, and we look forward to seeing its insights and recommendations come to life in policy and practice.

As the task force issues its final report, I join with President Reif in expressing my deep gratitude and admiration to all the members of the task force and its advisory boards, and especially to the task force leaders, co-chairs Professors David Mindell and David Autor, and executive director Dr. Elisabeth Reynolds.


Martin A. Schmidt, Provost