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Future Technology and Economics

  • Date Submitted: 04/04/2010 11:25 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 39.9 
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Future Technology and Economics
The unemployment situation is looking increasingly dismal. Is it possible that there’s something going on that no one wants to acknowledge?
There can be little doubt that computers, robotic technologies and other forms of job automation have been getting far more capable and that as this trend continues, more workers are certain to be displaced in the relatively near future. Most economists dismiss any concern that this might lead to long-term structural unemployment. At the risk of being labeled a “neo-Luddite,” I’d like to explore this issue a little further.
I think I can make a fairly strong argument that a very large percentage of jobs are, on some level, essentially routine and repetitive in nature. In other words, the job can be broken down into a discrete set of tasks that tend to get repeated on a regular basis. It seems likely that, as both hardware and software continue to advance, a large fraction of these job types are ultimately going to be susceptible to machine or software automation.
I’m not talking about far fetched science fiction-level technology here: this is really a simple extrapolation of the expert systems and specialized algorithms that can currently land jet airplanes, trade autonomously on Wall Street, or beat nearly any human being at a game of chess. As technology progresses, I think there is little doubt that these systems will begin to match or exceed the capability of human workers in many routine job categories–and this includes a lot of workers with college degrees or other significant training. Many workers will also be increasingly threatened by the continuing trend toward self-service technologies that push tasks onto consumers.
One of the most extreme historical examples of technologically induced job losses is, of course, the mechanization of agriculture. In the late 1800s, about three quarters of workers in the U.S. were employed in agriculture. Today, the number is around 2-3%. Advancing...


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