James Bessen

James Bessen

Lecturer

Executive Director, Technology & Policy Research Initiative
Director and Founder, Research on Innovation

AB, Harvard College


Biography

James Bessen, an economist and technologist, serves as Executive Director of the Technology & Policy Research Initiative at Boston University. He has also been a successful innovator and CEO of a software company.

Bessen studies the major economic impacts of technology on society (see New York Times profile), writing academic papers, magazine articles, and books. His latest book, The New Goliaths (Yale 2022), argues that major firms’ investments in proprietary software systems have allowed them to increase their dominance of industries, slowing aggregate innovation and raising income inequality. Earlier work with Michael Meurer on patents identified the social costs of poorly defined property rights (see Patent Failure, Princeton 2008), including the first evidence of damage from patent trolls. Bessen’s work on automation (see Learning by Doing, Yale 2015), both historical and current, provides a distinct analysis of effects on employment, skills, and wage inequality. Bessen’s work has been widely cited in the press as well as by the US White House and Supreme Court, the European Parliament, and the Federal Trade Commission.

Publications

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  • James Bessen, Martin Goos, Anna Salomons & Wiljan van den Berge, Automatic Reaction - What Happens to Workers at Firms that Automate? The Review of Economics and Statistics (2023)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, The New Goliaths: How Corporations Use Software to Dominate Industries, Kill Innovation, and Undermine Regulation (2022)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, Stephen Michael Impink, Lydia Reichensperger & Robert Seamans, The Role of Data for AI Startup Growth 51 Research Policy (2022)
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  • James Bessen, Chapter 8: Information Technology and the New Capitalism, in Harnessing Digitalization for Sustainable Economic Development: Insights for Asia (2021)
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  • James Bessen, Information Technology and Industry Concentration 63 Journal of Law & Economics (2020)
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  • James Bessen, Maarten Goos, Anna Salomons & Wiljan van den Berge, Firm-Level Automation: Evidence from the Netherlands 110 AEA Papers and Proceedings (2020)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, Automation and Jobs: When Technology Boosts Employment 34 Economic Policy (2019)
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  • James Bessen & Alessandro Nuvolari, Diffusing New Technology Without Dissipating Rents: Some Historical Case Studies of Knowledge Sharing 28 Industrial and Corporate Change (2019)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, Maarten Goos, Anna Salomons & Wiljan van den Berge, Automation: A Guide for Policymakers (2019)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, The Policy Challenge of Artificial Intelligence Boston University School of Law Law & Economics Paper Series (2018)
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  • James Bessen & Alessandro Nuvolari, Knowledge Sharing Among Inventors: Some Historical Perspectives, in Revolutionizing Innovation: Users, Communities, and Open Innovation (Dietmar Harhoff and Karim R. Lakhani,2016)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, Can Public Policy Influence Private Innovation? Emerging Trends in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (2015)
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  • James Bessen, Learning by Doing: The Real Connection between Innovation, Wages, and Wealth (2015)
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  • James Bessen, Toil and Technology: Innovative Technology is Displacing Workers to New Jobs Rather Than Replacing Them Entirely 52 Finance & Development (2015)
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  • James Bessen, The Anti-Innovators: How Special Interests Undermine Entrepreneurship 94 Foreign Affairs (2015)
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  • James Bessen, Industry and Revolution: Social and Economic Change in the Orizaba Valley, Mexico. By Aurora Gómez-Galvarriato. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. 2013. Pp. 351. $49.95, hardcover. 74 The Journal of Economic History (2014)
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  • Michael J. Meurer & James Bessen, The Direct Costs from NPE Disputes 99 Cornell Law Review (2014)
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  • James Bessen & Michael J. Meurer, The Patent Litigation Explosion 45 Loyola University Chicago Law Journal (2013)
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  • James Bessen & Brian Love, Make the Patent “Polluters” Pay: Using Pigovian Fees to Curb Patent Abuse 4 California Law Review Circuit (2013)
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  • James Bessen & Michael J. Meurer, The Private Costs of Patent Litigation 9 Journal of Law, Economics & Policy (2012)
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  • James Bessen, A Generation of Software Patents 18 Boston University Journal of Science & Technology Law (2012)
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  • James Bessen, More Machines, Better Machines...Or Better Workers? 71 The Journal of Economic History (2012)
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  • Michael J. Meurer, James Bessen & Jennifer Ford, The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls 34 Regulation (2012)
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  • Michael J. Meurer & James Bessen, Patent Failure: How Judges, Bureaucrats, and Lawyers Put Innovators at Risk (2009)
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  • Michael J. Meurer & James Bessen, Of Patents and Property 31 Regulation (2009)
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  • James Bessen & Eric Maskin, Sequential Innovation, Patents, and Imitation 40 RAND Journal of Economics (2009)
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  • James Bessen & Michael J. Meurer, What's Wrong with the Patent System? Fuzzy Boundaries and the Patent Tax 12 First Monday (2007)
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  • James Bessen & Robert M. Hunt, An Empirical Look at Software Patents 16 Journal of Economics & Management Strategy (2007)
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  • James Bessen & Michael J. Meurer, Patent Litigation with Endogenous Disputes 96 American Economic Review (2006)
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  • James Bessen, Chapter 3: Open Source Software: Free Provision of Complex Public Goods, in The Economics of Open Source Software Development (Jürgen Bitzer and Philipp J.H. Schröder,2006)
    Scholarly Commons
  • Michael J. Meurer & James Bessen, Lessons for Patent Policy from Empirical Research on Patent Litigation 9 Lewis and Clark Law Review (2005)
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  • Robert M. Hunt & James Bessen, The Software Patent Experiment 2004 Business Review (2004)
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  • James Bessen, Technology and Learning by Factory Workers: The Stretch-Out at Lowell, 1842 63 The Journal of Economic History (2003)
    Scholarly Commons
  • James Bessen, Chapter 2: What Good is Free Software?, in Government Policy toward Open Source Software (2002)
    Scholarly Commons

In the Media

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  • Charter Works November 12, 2023

    What History Tells Us to Expect about the Future of AI and Automation

    James Bessen is quoted.
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  • JD Supra August 17, 2023

    NAAG Hosts Antitrust Bootcamp: Antitrust Issues Related to Non-competes, AI and Healthcare

    James Bessen is mentioned.
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  • Wall Street Journal June 29, 2023

    Big Tech’s Battle Royale Is Coming. The Winner? You.

    James Bessen is quoted.
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  • Munk Debates Podcast June 19, 2023

    Munk Dialogue with James Bessen

    James Bessen is interviewed.
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  • The New York Times May 20, 2023

    The Optimist’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence and Work

    James Bessen's research is referenced.
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  • Financial Review May 16, 2023

    AI Won’t Kill Our Jobs, It Will Just Change Them

    James Bessen's research is mentioned.
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  • Boston Globe May 4, 2023

    Is AI a Job Killer? IBM May Think So, but It’s All in How You Use It.

    James Bessen's research is referenced.
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  • Project Syndicate April 12, 2023

    The Promise and Peril of Generative AI

    James Bessen's book is mentioned.
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  • The Wall Street Journal April 8, 2023

    Is Big Tech’s R&D Spending Actually Hurting Innovation in the US?

    James Bessen is quoted.
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  • BBC March 1, 2023

    The Perfect Storm Keeping Women of Colour behind at Work

    James Bessen's research is referenced.
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  • The New York Times February 14, 2023

    Beyond Silicon Valley, Spending on Technology Is Resilient

    James Bessen's research is referenced.
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  • Forbes February 9, 2023

    Three Reasons the ILWU Should Embrace Port Automation in LA/Long Beach

    James Bessen's research is referenced.
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  • OECD Forum January 24, 2023

    Technology Is Not Failing—It Is Transforming the Economy

    James Bessen authors an opinion.
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  • New York Times November 17, 2022

    Help! I Was Banned from Lyft and No One Will Tell Me Why.

    James Bessen is quoted.
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  • Hubert Guillaud November 7, 2022

    Can We Regulate Superstar Capitalism?

    James Bessen is quoted.
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