I was talking to Izabella Kaminska just briefly on Twitter about the impact of robots in the modern economy. Like many others, she states that robots are hurting the economy through various forces. See her latest at FT Alphaville for a good summary.
Anyhow, I don’t really have a well informed opinion here. My gut tells me this might be a bit hyperbolic. All this worry about robots. After all, we’ve been worrying about robots in some form for a long time. From mechanized killing machines to mechanized cleaning machines to mechanized everything machines. This debate spans the existence of man in some form as various inventions put some people out of work. On the one hand, technology makes us better off by making us more productive and providing us with the time to demand more goods and services. As the MR Law states:
“We generate improving living standards through the efficient use of resources resulting in the optimization of time”
On the other hand, there is Izabella’s thinking that a leisure society is developing that threatens full employment. This idea of the “leisure society” was a favorite theory of JM Keynes who predicted that, by 2030, we would all be sitting around living leisurely.
This idea also conflicts with Volney’s Law of Nature which states that man wants to produce, to improve, to progress. I generally agree with Volney. I think the idea of sitting around in a hammock all day sipping Margaritas sounds great – for about 2 weeks. Then I start feeling useless and unproductive and want to help my fellow man move forward. Maybe that’s just me, but I don’t think so. I am surrounded by people who just can’t produce enough and can’t help but think about why mankind isn’t good enough. I feel like I spend my days reading about the world’s problems. Humans are inherently dissatisfied with the state of their existence.
We can get very philosophical if we want. Anyhow, lots of moving parts here which is why I probably haven’t formulated a solid opinion (by the way, where is my robot to think about all of this for me so I can go eat a sandwich?).
So I wanted to reach into the Pragcap knowledge well and see what you all have to say.
Robots – scary or not?
Update – Izabella writes a follow-up here.