Discovery News

What Happens to the Future When It’s Severed From the Past

No one can say when exactly the modern age began, but it was clearly tied to the Reformation, Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution which had their roots in 14thand 15thcentury Europe.

The reformation of church corruption and pursuit of spiritual truth promoted by Martin Luther had its analog with the pursuit of truth regarding the physical universe by contemporary Nicholas Copernicus, who is credited as a key founder of the scientific revolution. Copernicus’ empirical evidence and reasoning upset the prevailing geocentric view that the earth was the center of universe with the heliocentric model that took its place — placing the sun at the center, with the earth and other planets orbiting it. The Reformation and Renaissance set in motion a cultural awakening as well as an unusual concentration of human genius and extraordinary wisdom that culminated in the birth of a new nation, the United States — dedicated to the rule of law, separation of powers and limited government, and accountability to its citizens whose rights were God-given and thus unalienable and not subject to infringement by the state — a truly revolutionary model that subsequently influenced other nations worldwide well into the 20thcentury. (more…) Go to Story (offsite) ›

The ‘Everything Handmade’ Trend Will Curb Job Losses

Experts have predicted the looming automation of everything, with machines replacing labor and putting half the population out of work. This forecast seems to follow from basic economic logic: Economic growth is about getting more output from less input.
Labor is an input. We are now devising powerful forms of automation, which will dilute our labor to homeopathic levels—especially in middle skill, blue-collar trades. Therefore, much of the population will soon be jobless. That inference is too simple. There’s disruption ahead, but other trends may fend off the job famine. Here’s one: As ever more goods become cheap commodities, the economic value of the human touch—of literal labor—goes up. Starbucks provided early evidence that an automation apocalypse isn’t inevitable. Fifty years ago, no one predicted that denizens of the developed world would decide to spend far more on coffee as the costs to grow and ship coffee continued to drop. You can make a decent cup of coffee at home for 20 cents. Or wait an hour and get good coffee from the office Keurig for 50 cents. Or drink a bottomless cup with free half-and-half at your local diner for $1.50. Down the street, though, Starbucks baristas serve labor-intensive coffee experiences to a stream of customers for a lot more money. Will these baristas be replaced by robots? I doubt it. There are already excellent machine-made lattes at airline clubs. Yet members buy $5 grande cappuccinos before they enter the club. Clearly, they are buying something more than mere coffee when they do this. Another example: Forty years ago, who would have predicted that customers at burger joints would want to know the name of the rancher and farmer who supplied their burger and fries? For the previous half-century, small-operation farms were losing out to large industrial farms. The productivity of these farms came at a cost: Hundreds of thousands of smaller family farms failed. But we got more food at much lower prices and more time and resources for other pursuits. Yet as the price of food dropped, the demand for costly, organic, locally grown products exploded, first as niche luxuries and then as more widely enjoyed indulgences. Necessity no longer compels most people to engage in farm labor. But such work has started to re-emerge on the edges of a diversifying market. Midsize farms are disappearing in favor of giant ones—but also of tiny, off-grid artisanal farms, which for now mostly function as side gigs. That may change. There is growing demand for microbrewed beers, grass-finished beef, pampered pork, free-range chickens, specialty cheeses, small-batch whiskey, urban gardens and farmers markets. These trends aren’t limited to food and drinks. Nor are they at odds with technology. On the contrary, much of the market for quirky and handmade goods depends on high-tech networks and the platforms that host them. Etsy , an online platform headquartered in gentrified Brooklyn, N.Y., has vastly expanded rather than destroyed the market for handcrafted and artisanal goods. It links small artisans to a global market—in 2016 there were 1.7 million sellers and some 28 million buyers. Etsy practically erases their startup costs as well. The platform gets 20 cents for every item listed as well as a 3.5% cut on transactions. In exchange, it connects the Spanish maker of a silver-plated “Moon Phase nose ring” to the 35 customers in Portland, Ore., who want it. My bet is that such networked markets will grow, not shrink. Yes, 20 years from now, machines may handle most of the farming, trucking, driving, routine factory work and mining. Automation will give everyone much cheaper goods and more disposable income. And more of that income will be spent on labor-intensive goods and services. The economy will be filled with artisanal goods and artisanal services. Butlers, chefs, builders, gardeners, midwives, nannies, personal assistants, tutors, tailors, athletic trainers and other bespoke laborers may become employees and consultants for the wealthier among us. Many others will be like today’s baristas—not rich, but not unemployed either. Will bespoke labor replace every job lost to the maw of automation? Probably not. But labor won’t disappear. It will take on new forms in a vastly expanded and diversified market. Mr. Richards is an assistant research professor in the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. This article is adapted from his book, “The Human Advantage: The Future of American Work in an Age of Smart Machines.” Jay will be speaking at Seattle Pacific University this Friday with George Gilder to discuss each of their new books. Visit for more information.  
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Times Change, But The Ideas In Declaration Of Independence Endure

July 4th is a generally more festive American holiday -- with cookouts, parades, parties, and fireworks -- than other patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day. Most people forget that when the Declaration of Independence was drafted and signed on or about July 4th 1776 it was both a revolutionary and a somber occasion.  It was revolutionary in being the first political doctrine in human history to assert that the rights of the people come from God, and not the state -- which made those rights natural, absolute, and “unalienable.” (more…) Go to Story (offsite) ›

Rise of the Robots: A Bad Argument for a Bigger Welfare State

group of scientists and activists wrote the president to warn him of an automated future that will give rise to “a separate nation of the poor, the unskilled, the jobless.” To blunt the coming mass unemployment, they proposed a universal basic income. The group, called the Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution, wrote that letter in March 1964, to President Lyndon Johnson. Their prophecy was way off, but it had its desired effect. Johnson promptly launched his “War on Poverty,” which jumpstarted the growth of federal, means-tested welfare programs. We now have 80 such programs. Instead of ridding the country of poverty, these programs create cycles of dependency and despair. (more…) Go to Story (offsite) ›