Could machine learning be a general purpose technology? A comparison of emerging technologies using data from online job postings

66 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2019 Last revised: 10 May 2021

See all articles by Avi Goldfarb

Avi Goldfarb

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Bledi Taska

Burning Glass Technologies

Florenta Teodoridis

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Date Written: May 8, 2021

Abstract

General purpose technologies (GPTs) push out the production possibility frontier and are of strategic importance to managers and policymakers. GPTs are typically identified with many years of hindsight. For managers deciding on technology strategy, this classification will come too late. In this paper, we use data from online job postings to provide an approach to assessing the relative likelihood that a technology is general purpose before it has widely diffused. Our approach is comparative, ranking different emerging technologies in the three dimensions the literature identifies as defining GPTs: (1) widespread use, (2) ongoing technical improvement, and (3) innovation in application sectors. We find that machine learning and related data science technologies are relatively likely to be GPTs.

Keywords: artificial intelligence, general purpose technology, innovation, technological innovation, technological advancement, job postings

JEL Classification: O30, O31, O33

Suggested Citation

Goldfarb, Avi and Taska, Bledi and Teodoridis, Florenta, Could machine learning be a general purpose technology? A comparison of emerging technologies using data from online job postings (May 8, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3468822 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3468822

Avi Goldfarb

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada
416-946-8604 (Phone)
416-978-5433 (Fax)

Bledi Taska

Burning Glass Technologies ( email )

One Lewis Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
United States

Florenta Teodoridis (Contact Author)

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States

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