Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, November 03, 2014

A BIG idea

So, we have a problem: technology is increasingly replacing labor. George Dvorsky has a wide-ranging discussion of the problem, just so you know I'm not just making this up. As he writes,

Another prominent thinker who has given this considerable thought is James Hughes, a sociologist from Trinity College in Connecticut. "We are now entering the beginning of an era in which technology has started to destroy employment faster than it creates it," he told io9. "The advance of information technology, artificial intelligence and robotics will eventually reduce the demand for all forms of human labor, including those dependent on 'human skills' like empathy and creativity."
He offers the example of Expedia. The online program may not be as creative at travel planning as an experienced travel agent, but it still displaces travel agents because it's considerably cheaper and more accessible. It's also an example of another impact of information technology, that of cutting out the middle man. 

"Eventually 3D printing and desktop manufacturing will cut out most of the work between inventors and consumers," says Hughes. "Alongside growing technological unemployment, we will also be living much longer, and will need to figure out an equitable solution to the growing ratio of retirees to workers and tax-payers.

At the same time, and probably related, is the much-discussed growing concentration of income and wealth among a smaller and smaller elite. If most people can't find work, two things will happen: a) nobody will be able to sell anything because consumers will mostly be broke and b) civilization will collapse. Otherwise, it won't be a problem.

The only solution -- an outcome Dvorsky thinks is inevitable -- is a Basic Income Guarantee. Everybody gets a check from the government, every month, that is enough to live on. Whether or not they choose to work, assuming they possibly can.

Hoo boy. Tell that to the Tea Party.

1 comment:

Don Quixote said...

I would fare well on well-fare. And I'd use my time better than I would at jobs I don't really care about :-)