MIT and the Future of Work

November 10, 2017

To the members of the MIT community,

I write on a subject that is everywhere in the public conversation, and that holds special relevance for our community: the future of work.

At MIT, we believe deeply in the power of technology as a force for good. But we also believe in looking squarely at the facts, and the fact is that the current rapid advance of certain technologies, from AI to robotics, has had and will continue to have significant impacts on society.

Many of those effects will be wonderful, from more efficient transportation to better ways to defeat disease. But there is no guarantee that today’s technologies will evolve in ways that serve everyone, and I am convinced that building a stronger, less divided society will require deliberately reinventing the future of work. Research, education, innovation and entrepreneurship will all be crucial. In this effort — and in keeping with our mission of national service — I believe MIT should play a leading role.

Many at MIT are already pioneers in this field; recently, researchers from CSAIL and the Initiative on the Digital Economy gathered to push each other’s thinking on precisely these themes. And I believe we can do much more to accelerate progress towards solutions.

In an op-ed in today’s Boston Globe, I argue that this is a subject that deserves national attention. I intend the piece as a call to action, for our own community and for others who may be inspired to help. If you are working on related ideas already, or would like to work with others to pursue possible solutions, please let us know at

I look forward to seeing how the people of MIT can contribute to this defining challenge of our time.


L. Rafael Reif