If this is the wave of the future, it makes nonsense of just about all the conventional wisdom on reducing inequality. Better education won’t do much to reduce inequality if the big rewards simply go to those with the most assets....I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons...But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications.So does Kevin Drum:
Here's what I mean. It's quite possible that, say, 50 years from now the production of nearly all goods and services will be automated. And this might usher in a golden age...But what happens while we're busy getting there? Answer: the owners of capital will automate more and more, putting more and more people out of work...The rest of us will have no jobs, and even with all this lovely automation, our government-supplied welfare checks will be meager enough that our lives will be miserable.And 60 minutes. And so does the Financial Time’s Izabella Kaminska, who’s been writing a series of posts on the influential FT Alphaville blog for more than nine months on the influence of robots on the economy and whether or not an economy can handle no scarcity. FT Alphaville requires registration, but fortunately Kaminska has collected links from across the world of economics and journalism as people attempt to hammer out this problem.
“One of the criticisms I face all the time, meanwhile, is that all this tech innovation has been going on for centuries. Why should there be a crisis of capital now? What makes this time any different? And what makes my sudden focus on tech relevant?Some think the revolution is already in progress. Forbes thinks China may be one of the first victims.
For starters, what I feel is new is the idea that the financial crisis was born out of the tech crash. If not for the dotcom bubble, we would not have had the conditions to create the subprime crisis. The China outsourcing phenomenon and imbalance situation may also have been born out of a need to replace mechanised labour — which compromised capital — with human labour, which still ensured profit and the preservation of capital. It was in a sense, an artificial scarcity response… designed to spread spending power to secure return on capital, rather than extinguish it.
[If] West not outsourced labour as extensively back in the 1990s…. the West may have been Japan-ified much earlier on.
But what really makes this time different, I would argue, is that a lot of the competition is now coming from a) the voluntary and crowd sourcing/open source arena and b) it’s only artificial scarcities (patents, monopoly interests) which are preventing complete democratisation of technologically-fueled abundance across the world. It is thus because monopoly power is slipping, challenged as it is by free alternatives rather than cheaper ones… that the crisis is beginning to manifest.”
This is not a race against the machines. If we race against them, we lose. This is a race with the machines. You’ll be paid in the future based on how well you work with robots. Ninety percent of your coworkers will be unseen machines. Most of what you do will not be possible without them. And there will be a blurry line between what you do and what they do. You might no longer think of it as a job, at least at first, because anything that seems like drudgery will be done by robots.
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