1/One of the most interesting topics in modern times is the ”œrobots eat all the jobs” thesis; best book on topic: [The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.]
2/The thesis is that computers can more and more substitute for human labor, thus displacing jobs and creating unemployment.
3/At core, this is Luddism ”””Š ”œlump of labor” fallacy, that there is a fixed amount of work to be done.
4/The counterargument is Milton Friedman: Human wants and needs are infinite; there is always more to do. 200 years of history confirms.
5/To avoid the Luddite mistake, must believe ”œthis time is different,” that either (a) there won’t be new wants and needs (vs human nature),
6/Or (b) It won’t matter that there are new wants and needs, most people won’t be able to adapt to contribute & have jobs in new fields.
7/While it is certainly true that technological change displaces current work & jobs, and that is a serious issue that must be addressed…
8/It is equally true, and important, that the other result of each such change is a step function increase in consumer standards of living.
9/As consumers, we virtually never resist technology change that provides us with better products/services even when it costs jobs…
10/Nor should we. This is how we build a better world, improve quality of life, better provide for our kids, solve fundamental problems.
11/Make no mistake, advocating slowing tech change to preserve jobs = advocating punishing consumers, stalling quality of life improvements.
12/So how then to best help individuals who are buffeted by producer-side technology change and lose jobs they wish they could keep?
13/First, focus on increasing access to education and skill development”Š ”””Š which itself will increasingly be delivered via technology.
14/Second, let markets work (voluntary contracts and trade) so that capital and labor can rapidly reallocate to create new fields and jobs.
15/Third, a vigorous social safety net so that people are not stranded and unable to provide for their families.
16/The loop closes as rapid technological productivity improvement and resulting economic growth make it easy to pay for safety net.
Marc Andreessen @pmarca
1/The flip side of ”œrobots eat all the jobs” not being discussed: The current revolution in the ”œmeans of production” going to everyone.
2/In the form of the smartphone (and tablet and PC) + mobile broadband +”ˆthe Internet: Will be in almost everyone’s hands by 2020.
3/Then everyone gets access to unlimited information, communication, education, access to markets, participate in global market economy.
4/This is not a world we have ever lived in: Historically most people in most places cut off from these things, usually to a high degree.
5/It is hard to believe that the result will not be a widespread global unleashing of creativity, productivity, and human potential.
6/It is hard to believe that people will get these capabilities and then come up with…absolutely nothing useful to do with them.
7/And yet that is the subtext to the ”œthis time is different” argument that there won’t be new ideas, fields, industries, businesses, jobs.
8/In arguing this with an economist friend, response was ”œBut most people are like horses; they have only their manual labor to offer.”
9/I don’t believe that, and I don’t want to live in a world in which that’s the case. I think people everywhere have far more potential.
Marc Andreessen @pmarca
1/Thought experiment: Posit a world in which all material needs are provided free, by robots and material synthesizers.
2/Housing, energy, health care, food, transportation All delivered to everyone for $0, by machines. Zero jobs in those fields remaining.
3/What would be the key characteristics of that world, and what would it be like to live in it?
4/First, it’s a consumer utopia: Everyone enjoys a standard of living that kings and Popes could have only dreamed.
5/Fifth [sic], all human time, labor, energy, ambition, and goals reorient to the intangibles: the big questions, the deep needs.
6/Human nature expresses itself fully, for the first time in history. Without physical need constraints, we will be whoever we want to be.
7/The main fields of human endeavor will be culture, arts, sciences, creativity, philosophy, experimentation, exploration, adventure.
8/Rather than nothing to do, we would have everything to do: curiosity, artistic and scientific creativity, new forms of status seeking (!).
9/Imagine six, or 10, billion people doing nothing but arts and sciences, culture and exploring and learning. What a world that would be.
10/The problem seems unlikely to be that we get there too fast. The problem seems like [sic] to be that we’ll get there too slow.
11/Utopian fantasy you say? OK, so then what’s your preferred long-term state? What else should we be shooting for, if not this?
Marc Andreessen is an American entrepreneur, investor and software engineer.