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 …
A 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. Read More ›
According to a new International Monetary Fund research paper, the answer to the above question is yes. As one story on the IMF report put it, “The future of work run by robots appears to be a dystopian march to rising inequality, falling wages and higher unemployment.” This is just the latest in a long line of predictions that artificial intelligence and automation will soon create massive “technological unemployment.”
I get it. Doomsday predictions gain shares on Facebook and Twitter. But these apocalyptic fears defy the lessons of both history and economics. Read More ›
Science fiction writers have long understood that when tyranny comes it often is introduced as some improvement, or as the correction of some perceived problem. C. S. Lewis, for example, warned of the therapeutic state that wants what is best for us, whether we ask for it or not. It starts as science, becomes scientism, then demands obedience. Read More ›
So I was out at the movies the other night, one of millions who have been enjoying the new Black Panther movie. We got there early, in time to be indoctrinated by the pre-show entertainment. One of the ads surprised me – it was for Twitter. Ads promoting social media platforms are not really that common. But even more surprising was the basic message of the ad – trust our algorithm. Read More ›
Forbes publisher and columnist Rich Karlgaard sits down with Discovery senior fellow George Gilder for a wide ranging Q&A session about tech progress, the future of innovation, and Life After Google. — “Over the last four decades, George Gilder has been one of the most influential writers on economic growth and prosperity, and technology’s key creative role in them. In 1981 Gilder’s book, Wealth and Poverty, hit all the bestseller lists and helped define the “supply-side,” low-tax economic revolution that characterized the eight years of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. Reagan himself frequently cited Wealth and Poverty. In the late 1980s Gilder turned his attention to technology and wrote several books predicting tech’s future impact, including Microcosm (1989), Life After Television (1990), Telecosm (2000) and The Silicon Eye (2006), as well as The Scandal of Money (2009). Gilder is presently wrapping up his next book, Life After Google, which will publish later this year.”
How will the next wave of fundamental scientific advancement be unleashed? Will America lead this new scientific revolution, or be a sideline spectator? And how might commonly held theories of today be viewed in the near and distance future? Read More ›