Is the Internet Making Us Poor?
Board: Macro Economics
The thesis is that "routine" knowledge workers (and helpmates) are becoming redundant, unnecessary, much like factory workers (replaced in part by robotics), farm workers (replaced, mostly by machinery), and so on...
How the internet is making us poor
Everyone knows the story of how robots replaced humans on the factory floor. But in the broader sweep of automation versus labor, a trend with far greater significance for the middle class—in rich countries, at any rate—has been relatively overlooked: the replacement of knowledge workers with software.
The turn of the new millennium is when the automation of middle-class information processing tasks really got under way, according to an analysis by the Associated Press based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Between 2000 and 2010, the jobs of 1.1 million secretaries were eliminated, replaced by internet services that made everything from maintaining a calendar to planning trips easier than ever. In the same period, the number of telephone operators dropped by 64%, travel agents by 46% and bookkeepers by 26%. And the US was not a special case.
As Marc Andreessen says, "software is eating the world." Result: the bi-polarization of the economy (as if we weren't helping it along already) with a small coterie of capital deployers at the top, a thin middle, and a large caste of menial service workers at the bottom.
Anyway, between robotics and software, there's a reason the mantra is "return on capital" and not "return on labor."
It's happened before, of course; we've gone from 80% of the population engaged in farming to less than 2% today, and from 30% of the workforce in manufacturing to under 10%. One wonders though, what's the next wave?