iPhones, dashboard-mounted GPS systems and self-serve checkouts could be making us dumber and consign future generations to lower living standards and wages.

Research by two US economists suggests the argument of the Luddite movement, which feared the Industrial Revolution would wipe away skilled jobs, could be true in the age of smart machines.

The research comes from two mainstream and well-respected economists. One, Jeffrey Sachs, has twice been named by Time magazine in its annual list of the world's 100 most influential people.

Professor Sachs and Boston University economist Laurence Kotlikoff, in a recently released paper, looked at the impact of smart machines on unskilled workers or younger people just entering the jobs market.

According to them, people who have lost their job to smart machines are increasingly finding it difficult to get back into the workforce.

The growth in smart machines also means the owners of that technology, usually older generations, were generating more wealth at the expense of younger generations.

Professor Sachs and Professor Kotlikoff said the long-held belief that technological change boosted productivity and overall incomes was now under challenge. Smart machines had now got so smart that in many cases they did not even need unskilled labour to keep them operational.

The West Australian

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