Jump to content
House Price Crash Forum
Sign in to follow this  
wonderpup

The Economist And Automation

Recommended Posts

As the unofficial HPC luddite I have taken a fair amount of stick for my views that automation is the 5th horseman of the apocalypse - so I was not going to pass up the opportunity to point out that the Economist magazine is leading it's current front page with the automation issue.

I must admit they still cling to their view that -in the long run- automation will not destroy jobs- but I do detect some slivers of doubt creeping in here and there- so the novel idea that the future might be different to the past is not entirely lost on them.

Worth a look for anyone who imagines they can feel the hot breath of technology on their collar;

There is already a long-term trend towards lower levels of employment in some rich countries. The proportion of American adults participating in the labour force recently hit its lowest level since 1978, and although some of that is due to the effects of ageing, some is not. In a recent speech that was modelled in part on Keynes’s “Possibilities”, Larry Summers, a former American treasury secretary, looked at employment trends among American men between 25 and 54. In the 1960s only one in 20 of those men was not working. According to Mr Summers’s extrapolations, in ten years the number could be one in seven.

This is one indication, Mr Summers says, that technical change is increasingly taking the form of “capital that effectively substitutes for labour”. There may be a lot more for such capital to do in the near future. A 2013 paper by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, of the University of Oxford, argued that jobs are at high risk of being automated in 47% of the occupational categories into which work is customarily sorted. That includes accountancy, legal work, technical writing and a lot of other white-collar occupations.

Answering the question of whether such automation could lead to prolonged pain for workers means taking a close look at past experience, theory and technological trends. The picture suggested by this evidence is a complex one. It is also more worrying than many economists and politicians have been prepared to admit.

A new wave of technological progress may dramatically accelerate this automation of brain-work. Evidence is mounting that rapid technological progress, which accounted for the long era of rapid productivity growth from the 19th century to the 1970s, is back. The sort of advances that allow people to put in their pocket a computer that is not only more powerful than any in the world 20 years ago, but also has far better software and far greater access to useful data, as well as to other people and machines, have implications for all sorts of work.

The case for a highly disruptive period of economic growth is made by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, professors at MIT, in “The Second Machine Age”, a book to be published later this month. Like the first great era of industrialisation, they argue, it should deliver enormous benefits—but not without a period of disorienting and uncomfortable change.

This quote struck me as particularly interesting,

In a forthcoming book Thomas Piketty, an economist at the Paris School of Economics, argues along similar lines that America may be pioneering a hyper-unequal economic model in which a top 1% of capital-owners and “supermanagers” grab a growing share of national income and accumulate an increasing concentration of national wealth. The rise of the middle-class—a 20th-century innovation—was a hugely important political and social development across the world. The squeezing out of that class could generate a more antagonistic, unstable and potentially dangerous politics.

America is usually ahead of the curve in most things, good and bad- and it's not hard to see the outlines of this new paradigm taking shape as the 1% seem to be getting richer even as the food stamp numbers grow.

But while there's not much here to surprise the dedicated automatophobe what is interesting is the fact that even economists are now starting to worry that automation might not be the unalloyed good they seemed to think it was- at least not in the kinds of timescales we have to operate in- I'll happily buy their premise that in the long run we will all be living in an automated paradise- my worry is how I can get there without a job.

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21594264-previous-technological-innovation-has-always-delivered-more-long-run-employment-not-less?spc=scode&spv=xm&ah=9d7f7ab945510a56fa6d37c30b6f1709

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the difference is that I don't see job losses due to automation as a bad thing in the long run. It could be a extremely beneficial for mankind - a second renaissance but open to all. Trouble is that the current education system/cultural norms/prevailing economic systems aren't preparing us for it at all.

The transition period, however, is likely to extremely difficult. When 85 people have the same wealth as the the bottom 3.4bn and nobody questions it - it tells you we have some work to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the difference is that I don't see job losses due to automation as a bad thing in the long run. It could be a extremely beneficial for mankind - a second renaissance but open to all. Trouble is that the current education system/cultural norms/prevailing economic systems aren't preparing us for it at all.

The transition period, however, is likely to extremely difficult. When 85 people have the same wealth as the the bottom 3.4bn and nobody questions it - it tells you we have some work to do.

I think that people are beginning to question this - but fringes only. It'll take another 50 years until there is a change.

Which pollie will be the first to stand up and say that the majority of the unemployed are unemployed due to failures of the system, not the individual? None in the UK, as by doing so you are challenging the land owners, the boomers, and the retired....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree that automation is at a level that it's heralding in a golden era of job destruction. What I disagree on is if you could or should stop it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In the future, those who will be safe are the asset owners. Are the Royalty worried by technology advances over the last 100 years? No.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • The Prime Minister stated that there were three Brexit options available to the UK:   224 members have voted

    1. 1. Which of the Prime Minister's options would you choose?


      • Leave with the negotiated deal
      • Remain
      • Leave with no deal

    Please sign in or register to vote in this poll. View topic


×

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.