Technological Musings

the great hollowing out

apropos my first post, the NYT campaign blog just covered the evolving labor market and technology’s effects:

i remain concerned for two major reasons:

  1. speed of change.  unlike the agricultural and industrial revolutions, the technological revolution will make change over a scant few decades.  the replacement of labor by technology is moving into new territory (machines that are smart).  my guess is that the next 20 years will define a major upheaval.  the key here is speed and an inability to adapt at such a pace.  give us 70 years or so and it’ll be ok…but this go-round won’t give us the pleasure of time.
  2. a revolution of a different color.  unlike the labor-saving revolutions of years past, this is a revolution of labor replacement.  a back hoe enhances a worker’s ability to move dirt…and the worker is more productive.  if the back hoe can do the work all by itself, we have a problem, houston.  as people are moved out of the loop of labor, we have a situation that is unlike those revolutions that have come before.

if we have effective neuromorphic systems in the next 10-15 years (and maybe even if we don’t), vast areas of our economy will replace labor with technology.  in the short run, the Dow Index and corporate profits will go through the roof…and unemployment will be higher than ever.  uncharted territory, to be sure.  the longer run is more interesting…will we adapt and infill with new jobs enabled by the new tech?  or will we move into a system where the only way to ensure a purchasing public (and therefore a marketplace and the source of corporate profit) is to provide the great unwashed masses of the unemployed some stipend (perhaps derived by taxing some increment of the enhanced productivity)?

i look forward to kai risdol’s (sp?) piece after all things considered tonight looking at the replacement of airline workers by kiosks.


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