A More Optimistic View on Automation and Jobs

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4 Responses

  1. Barry says:

    “I am hopeful that new technologies will create jobs and perhaps allow workers to have more humane work schedules through productivity gains. ”

    We’ve been waiting for decades now.

  2. A.J. Sutter says:

    The irony is that firing workers, whether because of new technologies or otherwise, is what is regarded as a productivity gain (anticipation of same or more profit, divided by fewer people). That’s why share prices go up when layoffs are announced. And since (i) executive compensation is tied to share prices, and (ii) the combined annual real trading volume on the NYSE and NASDAQ has exceeded US real GDP every year since 1997, even despite the 2008 crash*, the dynamics of share prices are more likely to influence management policies than being humane to workers. So perhaps more than the problem being that our economy is based on consumption, production, and spending, the problem is that finance — even just the equities sector by itself — is much bigger than that economy.

    *Source: time series data from US Office of Management & Budget (2013 Historical Tables) and World Federation of Exchanges (WFE). This mathematical inequality is possible because capital gains aren’t included in GDP.

  3. Frank says:

    I hope that you are right. However, I think it’s all about the incentives and society’s ability to, in a Walzerian way, hedge off certain sources of values from the competitions for money and power that technologies now dominate.

    The ultimate dystopia: technology so colonizes our process of values-formation that future persons cannot even perceive the value of a better world. I describe that possibility a bit in this essay:

  4. A.J. Sutter says:

    Speaking of dystopias, even utopias can be dystopic: the narrator in Doris Lessing’s Canopus in Argos: The Sirian Experiments at one point attributes her planet’s intragalactic colonizing activities to her people’s malaise from growing up in a world where productivity improvements relieved people of the need to work for a living, and their loss of any sense of meaning to their lives.