Erik Brynjolfsson

Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI

Stanford University

United States

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI, and director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. He is also the Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, and professor by courtesy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Department of Economics. Professor Brynjolfsson’s research examines the effects of information technologies on business strategy, productivity and performance, digital commerce, and intangible assets.

Voting History

Statement Comments
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Strongly Agree “I’m going to interpret “business strategy” broadly to include work arrangements. Work-from-home in the U.S. went from 16% before COVID-19 to over 50% at the peak of the pandemic, spurring big changes in the use of digital technologies, the geography of work, and the nature of interactions. After the pandemic, some of these changes will persist.”
The COVID-19 pandemic will lead companies to relocate infrastructure and employees away from dense urban locations. Agree “Companies have discovered that a lot of the work they do can be done remotely. Digital tools and infrastructure have been put to the test and mostly passed.”
The California Consumer Privacy Act will undermine the targeted advertising market by giving consumers the right to opt out of allowing companies to sell personal data to third parties. Disagree
In the wake of recent climate-related disasters and related events, such as the bankruptcy of PG&E, corporations are now planning for the increased operational risks and potential liabilities caused by climate change. Agree “Most smart corporations are certainly planning for the increased risks of climate change. Are they planning enough? Most certainly are not.”
Antitrust policy should intervene more decisively to limit the scope of large technology platforms. Neither Agree nor Disagree “There are novel and disparate challenges for economics and society created by platform technologies. While antitrust policy can be useful in some cases, it is often the wrong tool for addressing other challenges. This is especially true when policy makers don't yet understand the principles of digital, networked, platform economics, which can create unintended outcomes.”
U.S. regulations have been rolled back in a number of areas, including emissions standards and clean water. Companies will decide to voluntarily adhere to rules that closely resemble the original standards. Disagree “Pollution is a classic example of an externality: The costs are paid by others. Therefore, firms don’t have a direct economic incentive to reduce pollution. That justifies intervention, e.g., via government regulations. In some cases, executives will do the right thing anyway — because of their own values or public pressure — but those levers generally fall short of creating the optimal reductions.”
The Business Roundtable’s new Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation indicates a shift away from shareholder value maximization as the sole purpose of the corporation and toward a broader view of value creation.
This shift will have material impact on the well-being of U.S. workers.
“Corporations, like all organizations, have multiple stakeholders with varying interests. Workers are among those stakeholders — and recognizing this fact will likely increase their bargaining power and thus, their well-being whenever there are economic rents to be shared.”
In the next decade, we will see the first sustainably profitable private commercial activities in space. Agree “Virgin Galactic claims $80M in deposits. Blue Origin has a similar program underway. Both aim for service within a few years. Both the supply and the demand for space tourism will be significant within a decade, as costs come down and the ranks of the ultrarich grow. Note: I’m writing this as I use Virgin Atlantic’s Wi-Fi at 35,000 feet over the ocean — there is no great stagnation.”
Introducing 5G networks 3-5 years ahead of other countries will give Chinese firms an advantage. Strongly Agree “5G is a big deal, and the U.S. is fumbling its rollout.”
The increase in stock market volatility that began in 2018 will last for another three to five years. Neither Agree nor Disagree
A hard Brexit will have a significant negative impact on many businesses, even if they do not have a U.K. or European presence. Agree
China is no longer the most attractive growth opportunity for Western multinationals. Neither Agree nor Disagree “China is an enormously attractive opportunity for businesses, but there are also many other growth opportunities, particularly when applying new technologies for digitization and AI.”
In the next five years, the blockchain will have a transformative effect on finance in emerging markets. Strongly Disagree “The blockchain is an intellectually interesting technology in search of a problem it can solve better than good old, public-key cryptography plus a traditional database or ledger. So far at least, the use cases have been driven more by hype and outright scams than practical benefit.”
In the absence of a carbon tax, industry self-regulation can help mitigate the worst fallout from climate change. Disagree “Climate change is a textbook example of a negative externality. Self-regulation is rarely effective in such situations if industry players are self-interested. That’s one of the most compelling reasons for government involvement, and as Bill Nordhaus and others have shown, carbon taxes are particularly compelling as an approach.”
Amazon’s new $15 per hour minimum wage will force other companies to follow suit. Agree “The word ‘force’ is too strong, but employers do need to meet the competition when they offer wages. More importantly, it also sends a visible signal and symbol that will affect perceptions of what a fair wage is. That said, the effect will be small for any one firm, even a big one like Amazon.”
Restrictions on skilled immigration will cause US firms to to shift more operations overseas. Strongly Agree “Highly skilled labor is essential for just about every American firm’s success. If it can’t come to them, they go to it.”
Uber has to develop self-driving cars in the next 10 years in order to remain viable. Disagree “Self-driving cars are a strong complement for ride-hailing services. However, the technology will eviscerate half of Uber’s two-sided network: its huge installed base of drivers.”
A trade war will be more disruptive to business than to consumers. Strongly Agree “The first-order effects of trade barriers are to rearrange supply chains as consumers make substitutions. Trade barriers on intermediate goods (like steel) are even more disruptive for businesses.”
Concern over consumer privacy will fundamentally limit businesses’ ability to use big data. Disagree “Effective privacy protections are feasible and can make consumers more willing to share data.”