February 11, 2017


There will be much less work in the future. We need to rethink our societies (Mark Dodgson & David Gann, 14 December 2016, world Economic Forum)

Applications being developed for the use of artificial intelligence, robotics, big data and the Internet of Everything are enormously consequential. Yet the disruptive effects of innovation are nothing new: the farm worker, transported to the industrial factory in the latter half of the 18th century, would have experienced levels of devastation to their lives and society that make the present changes seem minor in comparison. These changes, which continued for more than a century, sparked backlashes from the Luddites, revolutionary ferment from Karl Marx, and inspired Benjamin Disraeli's lament that Britain had become "two nations" almost irredeemably divided.

While society has made transitions in the past, contemporary reality is extremely troublesome. According to an Oxford University study, 47% of US jobs are threatened by computerisation. Casualisation or zero-hours contracts pose threats to many. Large proportions of those put out of work will be in their 40s and 50s, with decades to wait before they can claim pensions. A new poverty trap may be opening up. Bank of England Governor Mark Carney warns of the "first lost decade" in wage growth "since the 1860s" when "Karl Marx was scribbling in the British Library."

As Joseph Schumpeter argued 75 years ago, innovation is a process of creative destruction. The social and political challenge is to accentuate the creative and mitigate the destructive.

We need to balance the debate that celebrates the virtues of rapid change, agility and entrepreneurship; with consideration of the ways societies, and their citizens, cope with and benefit from the considerable turbulence generated by technological change. The political backlash to this comparative lack of concern is seen in Trumpism and Brexit. Globalisation, productivity and innovation may be the mantra for their beneficiaries, but for many they mean job losses, working harder, and ever more uncertainty at work.

...is that the greatest "crisis" we face is the fact that we can create ever more wealth with an ever decreasing labor input. What we have a simple wealth distribution question.

Posted by at February 11, 2017 9:11 AM


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