Race Against The Machine
|In the five years since the great recession engulfed the world, and the impact is clear. Millions of middle-class jobs have vanished. Now more and more economists and analysts fear those jobs are lost for good - killed by sophisticated technology and smarter software.|
Andrew McAfee, co-author of the book Race Against The Machine, thinks that when it comes to the disruption of labor markets because of technology, “we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
At the MIT Sloan School of Management, McAfee, and his associate Erik Brynjolfsson study the impact that information and robotics technologies have on industry.
Last year, McAfee gave a presentation of his research at Singularity University’s Graduate Studies Program. McAfee contends that we could now be entering a world where automation will cause wages to fall and jobs to dry up.
The fear surrounding technological unemployment have been around for 200 years. Famed economist, John Maynard Keynes, voiced concerns regarding automation in the 1930’s and coined the term “technological unemployment.”
In the early days of the industrial revolution, many worried that the automation of agriculture would leave everyone unemployed. Of course, Keynes’ vision of a world with little work left for humans never transpired, and his argument has been widely regarded as a fallacy. McAfee, however, tells a convincing story as to why it may finally be time to worry.
So what can we do?
Some suggest that our technology will lead to a new world of abundance, and the end of work as we know it. This is a popular manifesto with the Zeitgeist movement, among whom Federico Pistono actively takes part in. For some though, the Zeitgeist movement and others like it, are just an updated version of Marxism.
McAfee points out:
One could argue that the government, in this future scenario of abundance, can and should do the producing so that we can all do the consuming. Well, we tried that last century. It was called communism, and it was an abject failure. Some places, like North Korea and Cuba, are still trying it. And they’re both places that people are frequently willing to risk their lives to escape. I think that should tell us something. And I don’t think that anything about technological progress will change the fact that massive state-owned enterprise is a bad idea.For McAfee we are at the cusp of a huge transition period that will be far more profound than America’s shift from agriculture to industry.