Peter Thiel had a good piece in the FT today on the debate about robots and whether the rise of technology is a good thing or a bad thing. I tend to fall on the side that says robots are a good thing, but I do acknowledge that the pace of technological acceleration is frightening precisely because humans can’t come up with enough alternative jobs to offset the rapid growth in robot-led job losses. Still, Thiel makes an altnernatively superb point:
“Spiralling demand for resources of which our world contains a finite supply is the great long-term threat posed by globalisation. That is why we need new technology to relieve it.”
Technology is costing us jobs, but it’s also keeping costs down by reducing our dependence on the finite supply of natural resources. We not only need the robots to win this war, but we are dependent on them to win this war. Technology is the path to energy independence and resource independence.
As for the jobs, well, profit maximizing capitalists aren’t likely to solve that problem because they’re the ones leading the robot charge. Which is great. They’re not the bad guys in this war. But we should realize that if they’re not going to fix the job problem then smarter government policy has to play a bigger role. And that means lower taxes and more government investment. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for the capitalists to reach that magical and mythical “equilibrium” point for us. And it just ain’t happening…