January 03, 2012
– Comments (9)
Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy
It is amazing how long it took for MIT to catch up to Alstry....
Although the basic concept is not exactly new. Classical economics (before Keynes) talked about the creative destruction of capitalism, which was at least partially explained by technological innovation.
But creative destruction is simply a historical perspective that does NOT necessarily apply going forward to humans...especially since our population now EXCEEDS 7 Billion. I am amazed that Motley Fool didn't pick up on this earlier, but if they did, they would be putting themselves out of business for telling the TRUTH....the real role of a FOOL;)
Here is an excellent interview from one of the authors.....pay special attention to the second half of the interview:
So if one was to use a super laser and destroy half of a contient creating a massive loss in the work force would that undo all of this?
Not that I'd do anything like that from my Volcano Lair.
This concept of "losing jobs to machines" is a serious issue. I recommend the video interview with Andrew McAffee which Alstry has posted. After briefly surfing some of Alstry's other blogs and his website 'udderworld,' I also find other interesting references.
Unfortunately I fail to understand everything that Alstry himself is ever trying to say, if anything. Basically Alstry seems to be saying, the world is in bad shape, computers are displacing jobs, but don't worry--all this will be resolved by making available lots of digital products... thus "materially reducing the tension between freedom and control..."
What this means, I have no idea. Also no idea why Alystry's website is named "Udderworld." Nothing seems to make sense. I find mainly fragments of ideas, seldom even a coherent sentence.
However, if the most advanced A.I. computer existing today were instructed to publish a website and blog, even choosing its own name and the name of its website, I can believe that the result might be something like Alstry and Udderworld. So, perhaps "Alstry" is an A.I. computer experiment--exactly as McAffee refers to in the above interview. If so, "Alstry" is impressive.
Otherwise however, then in addition to computers encroaching on the sphere of humans, perhaps "Alstry" is an illustration of another concern, human minds heading in the opposite direction. Perhaps a casualty of being brought up on too many video games and other digital products.
Alstry certainly seems to be choosing to make contact with more meaningful subjects than most people ever concern themselves with. However everyone also should spend more time away from all technology, camping out with friends and family. If Alstry has any good friends who are attempting to give him any such advice, I do suggest that Alstry take them seriously.That's what friends are for.
The video makes a few logical mistakes.
1. Just because computer power has been doubling every 18 months does not mean it will always double. We could hit a wall and see slower growth after just a few more doubles.
2. The only way technology eliminates jobs for most people is if we get to the point where most people do not need to work to enjoy a lavish lifestyle. When machines make our food, shelter, medical care, and so on, most of us will stop working. Until then, humans will become increasingly productive and enjoy improving lifestyles, with only a few small bumps along the way.
A few more doubles...and well over half of the world's currently employed people will be out of a "job"...as you are doubling from a much higher base.
Bankruptcy from decreased cash flow elimates jobs too.....remember Zombulation has two components which work in a positive feedback loop....advancing technology AND financial delveraging.
Take a look at Africa to a nation that has lots of people needing to work....and no jobs. America is now RAPIDLY heading in that direction as Zombulation spreads across the nation. But we have a few hundred million private guns confronting the frustration of Zombulation.
There are solutions...but you must enter the Udder World.
To Melaschasm,Your opinion is interesting to me, because it seems to focus on the direction of logic that is presented by McAfee. This is a narrow and academic focus, which is necessary to avoid being labeled with some kind of political agenda. The weakness is that it lends itself to equally narrow counter-arguments. However McAfee is only one of many academics saying the same thing from numerous disciplines.The fact is, as everyone knows, the average worker, either blue collar or white collar, is not paid any better nor more wealthy today than in 1990. In spite of which, we have seen huge gains in wealth for people who have played the stock market successfully. And of course Fool.com is the last place to expect to hear any complaint about this situation.However the world cannot be economically healthy with only investors and no laborers. The plain fact is, one person with a computer is often doing the work of ten people, but not getting paid any more. Even if you assume that the other nine people are finding jobs (which is quite an assumption)--labor of any kind is porportionally of much less value. Meanwhile a great number of people have hundreds of millions, which they insist on increasing by at least 10% annually, with an equal fervor to those who are struggling to hold on to their jobs.To equalize this trend between labor and investment, we need to give tax incentives for investing in corporate bonds, thus gradually reducing the attractiveness of the stock market, without hindering economic development. It is of course impossible to consider that America will consider this direction. We are tied in to the impossible notion of eternal growth, which ultimately must destabilize the planet as surely as if it were a slow-motion Ponzi scheme. Even if you somehow believe this is a sustainable system, you should be able to see that with several thousand billioniaires having so-called "earnings" of hundreds of millions every year, the value of currency itself must ultimately be destabilized.McAfee brings up the same analogy that I often mention myself: doubling the grains of rice for each square on a chess board. However McAfee uses this analogy to speculate on the possible increase in technology. I agree with Melaschasm that this is only a speculation and not very approporiate. Nonetheless in another sphere, the average human being and even the average mathematically-trained investor somehow believes that constant growth is possible. Even if we are only talking about 10% constant growth, the impossibility is not a speculation but a mathematical certainty. At some point most people who are able to put more dollars into this system will already have done so, while the erstwhile almost-free resources are almost depleted, and this is obviously where we are today.I would even argue that the so-called faulty predictions of lost jobs of the 1930's were in fact correct from the beginning. The equations "appeared" to be rebalanced by killing millions of people in WWII, and then by first world countries building a high living standard by selling automobiles and other developed advances to third world countries. I.e., the povertry and child labor and sweat shops never went away, they were just moved to Malaysia and Indonesia and such places. We talk about the Great Depression like it was an ancient anomally, meanwhile most people have ever since been living in the same situation.Some of the third world countries are now beating us at our own game, which was inevitable. On top of which, we now have 7 billion people to support. On top of which, energy from oil which was next to free, is no longer so cheap, etc.I.e., I respect your clear articulation, you seem able to think better than average, and this is why I am inspired to respond. Nonetheless in my opinion, you really need to be ignoring a lot of obvious facts to say what you say. And I must confess that McAfee encourages this reverse-binocular perspective with his academic focus. Unfortunately, getting a few other academics to agree with his academics is about all we can hope for. So I suspect that McAfee would agree with me but just knows better than to bother saying it.Other than that, this is in an investment website so this is hardly worth arguing over. This is just one of many predictors that the world is in serious trouble, which investors generally just take their pick whether they choose to believe, then move on from there. Those of us who pay attention to the warnings can't do much because not enough people will possibly respond rationally until it is far too late. So, coffee break over. Thank you for your thoughts. I apologize for the length of this message. Normally I should write my own blog with this much to say--but in this case, what's the point? Now let's get on with investing--at least until the ceiling caves in.
Thank you for the well considered reply. While I agree that the world is in trouble, I consider technology to be part of the solution, not part of the cause.
While I have heard some reasonable disputes regarding the growth rather than stagnation of middle class wages in the USA, let us assume that the middle class has not had an increase in wealth as measured by the US dollar.
In the 1980s computers were rare, and cell (car) phones a toy of the rich. Now even poor people have cell phones and many use smart phones more powerful than PCs from the 1990s.
The USA has been largely free of starvation level poverty for many decades, but in recent times we have seen global starvation shrinking significantly. While China and India are not yet free of the fear of starvation, with their rapid economic growth it is likely that billions of people will be freed of the fear of starvation within a decade or two.
Medical care is improving rapidly in the USA and the world. At the current rate of improvement, human lifespans are likely to increase significantly in the next couple decades, and perhaps more importantly the quality of life may increase even more than the duration. The improvements in care for third world countries is improving even faster as they only need to adopt our knowledge, rather than invent it.
While there are major challenges, we continue to see dramatic improvements in our lifestyles. I do not fear that technology will replace workers, I hope that it will. It would be better if humans could spend much less of their time doing menial labor, and instead enjoying life and expanding human knowledge.
I suspect that we agree on more of the data than it seems, but it is our expectations for the future that differ. When I was in junior high I read many Isaac Asimov books. A big part of his science fiction dealt with robots and what such inventions might mean for humanities future. While he showed many of the potential dangers of such machines, he also showed some of the potential benefits.
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