W. Brian Arthur



"I think it may well be the biggest change ever in the economy. It is a deep qualitative change that is bringing intelligent, automatic response to the economy."

W. Brian Arthur in The Second Economy, 2011


"Intelligence is no longer housed internally in the brains of human workers but has moved outward into the conversation among intelligent algorithms. It has become external."

W. Brian Arthur in Where is Technology taking the Economy? 2017. (Pdf version)







The Autonomous Economy

The digital revolution has been changing the economy for several decades now and is still unfolding. Many economists and technologists have written about this. Arthur has two pieces on the digital revolution in the McKinsey Quarterly: The Second Economy in 2011, and Where is Technology taking the Economy? (Pdf version) in 2017.

From the 2011 article:

"Digitization is creating a second economy—an autonomous one—that’s vast, silent, connected and unseen. It is remotely executing and global, always on. It constantly configures itself on the fly, and increasingly it is also self-organizing, self-architecting, and self-healing."

From the 2017 article:

"The autonomous economy "is steadily providing an external intelligence in business—one not housed internally in human workers but externally in the virtual economy’s algorithms and machines. Business and engineering and financial processes can now draw on huge “libraries” of intelligent functions and these greatly boost their activities—and bit by bit render human activities obsolete.

"This is causing the economy to enter a new and different era, one where it produces enough in principle for everyone, but where the means of access to these services and products, jobs, is steadily tightening. So this new period we are entering is not so much about production anymore—how much is produced; it is about distribution—how people get a share in what is produced. Politics will change, free-market beliefs will change, social structures will change. We are still at the start of this shift, but it will be deep and will unfold indefinitely in the future."