Friday, December 28, 2012

Izabella Kaminska — The Tech Debate Blasts Off (A Linkfest)

Links, links, links, and some good commentary, too.

Toward a Leisure Society
The Tech Debate Blasts Off (A Linkfest)
Izabella Kaminska


Dan Kervick said...

Seems to me the point that is being missed here is the role of market inefficiency, social inequality and the concentration of capital.

If technology is destroying old occupations more rapidly, why aren't the available people rapidly creating new occupations and exchanging the product of those occupations for income? My hypothesis is that they have no access to capital the tools of capital formation, and those who have those have those tools are so sated with their stupendous wealth that they have no incentive to do the investment themselves.

This new techno-unemployment fad is just another iteration of the elitist, structural unemployment meme. The implicit assumption is that the people who are disemployed by technology are too stupid and worthless to do anything really useful and new, and so they are unemployed because society has run out of useful occupations for them.

Andy Blatchford said...

Dan read Izzys original series on this which seemed to get the whole thing going... its on there Beyond scarcity where you are going to find that a lot of what you mention here is covered.

@Tom... I called that :)

Tom Hickey said...

My hypothesis is that they have no access to capital the tools of capital formation

A simple answer would be that ROI has fallen below rate of return on rent-seeking, so funds are going into financial investment rather than real investment or being invested in emerging countries where ROI is greater than in developed countries.

Dan Kervick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan Kervick said...

A simple answer would be that ROI has fallen below rate of return on rent-seeking.

Yes, but that the ROI to capital. And the rate of return to capital can't be measured in nominal terms.

Suppose for the extreme case a single human being, Adam, owned all capital - all of the means of production save the laboring capabilities of individual human beings. Adam pays others to produce, but only for his own benefit. He shares with them only that portion of the output that allows them to subsist and continue producing, but no more. The richer he gets, the smaller grows the marginal value for him of incremental additions to production, until he reaches the point of satiety. He has no more interest in production because he no longer needs or wants anything beyond what he has.

Note that this satiety level could be reached even if the unemployed workforce, combined with the unemployed capital resources in Adam's possession, would be perfectly capable of producing more output that would be abundantly valuable to other people besides Adam. But since Adam controls all of the means of production, only the value of that output to Adam influences what he will produce.

This, it seems to be, is why the unequal concentration of capital leads to mass unemployment: it reduces the aggregate value-for-capital-owners of marginal increases in production.

So again we have one of those "this time its different" debates. This time the problem is supposed to be super-duper technology, robots, etc. I'm not buying it. It seems to me that what is happening now is what has always happened with weakly regulated capitalism: it leads over time to greater capital concentration, and that in turn lands to capitalism employing a smaller share of the available workforce.