Saturday, December 8, 2012

Paul Krugman — Rise of the Robots

I think our eyes have been averted from the capital/labor dimension of inequality, for several reasons. It didn’t seem crucial back in the 1990s, and not enough people (me included!) have looked up to notice that things have changed. It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications.
But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications.
The New York Times — The Conscience of a Liberal
Rise of the Robots
Paul Krugman | Professor Economics, Princeton University
(h/t Kevin Fathi via email)

You heard it here first.

16 comments:

andy blatchford said...

I have heard a few people say that "we have been predicting this for a 100 years but has not happened yet" which is true but this time it really is different that future is becoming reality... Keynes was only a few years out.

I really am a fanboy of Izy Kaminska's beyond scarcity series! :)

Tom Hickey said...

The neoclassical model that modern capitalism and neoliberalism are based on scarcity. It depends on reinforcing scarcity thinking.

The antidote is abundance thinking. This is hardly new. Bucky Fuller first started preaching it in the Forties. See Nine Chains to the Moon (938.) He called it "design science," or "doing more with less."

Tom Hickey said...

According to Fuller's view, scarcity thinking is based on the fallacy of taking scarcity as an absolute rather than looking at resources relative to objectives. There is an abundance of so-called scarce resources to meet humanity's goals in light of design science. A large part of the problem is that resources are being systematically diverted to misuse for the advantage of a privileged few.

andy blatchford said...

Thanks Tom will look that up, of course aware of Fuller from fullerenes, and a section in the 3rd part of Adam Davies all watched over by the machines of loving grace... out of curiousity what did you think of that section as you were a part of that? fair or not.

Yes neoclassical is the economics of scarcity so no surprise that their models fall apart

Tom Hickey said...

Never watched "all watched over by the machines of loving grace,} but my take on all takes on that period is pretty simple — they are simplistic. There wer many, many facts, and the media only featured an "interesting" segment, along with a spin.

There is just no way to encapsulate it, nor this possible with Occupy and the youth movement now. Just too many facets.

Basically then it was a countercultural awakening then as it is now. However, then it was chiefly social, cultural and political and not so much economic. Now it is chiefly economic.

The social and cultural revolution was won, and the political one, too, to a degree, with the resignation of Nixon, the end of the Vietnam War, the end of the draft, and the institution of civil rights.

No one was talking much about Marx then. That is changing now that we are in the throes of an economic revolution against neoliberalism., neo-feudalism, crony capitalism, and endemic corruption.

andy blatchford said...

Never seen it? pity expect would like it but just checked and the links i have the content is been removed...copyright issues oh well. The part i mentioned was only a couple of minutes in a 3 hour documentary, the section was about the communes and them falling apart within about 18 months.
The first hour is mostly spent on Greenspan & Rand.2nd hour is about the rise of asset stripping in the UK in the 60s and 70s. 3rd was a bit of a mishmash tbh.

Tom Hickey said...

It's available on DVD. I'll put it on my Amazon wishlist.

Magpie said...

My God!

I'm speechless, in a good way, too.

"It has echoes of old-fashioned Marxism — which shouldn’t be a reason to ignore facts, but too often is. And it has really uncomfortable implications. But I think we’d better start paying attention to those implications."

I would like to see Brad DeLong's (or Noah Smith's) reaction to this.

Dan Kervick said...

For a while I thought Krugman was angling for a position in Obama's second administration. But now I think he might be preparing the ground to run himself in 2016.

Neil Wilson said...

This as always been obvious to me, since it is what I do for a living.

In my second job interview in 1993, my naive younger self was showing off about how automation could reduce manpower from five to one.

The interviewer listened politely and then said 'and what are those four people going to do for a living now?'.

andy blatchford said...

Found it Tom
http://vimeo.com/27393748

course its Adam Curtis not Davies!

andy blatchford said...

Ah dammit, only has episode 1 though
still good though.

geerussell said...

Ah dammit, only has episode 1 though still good though.

Just finished watching that. It had been a while since I watched an Adam Curtis documentary and I forgot how bleak they can be. I liked it but I really should have followed my "don't watch without a bottle of bourbon" rule.

The remaining parts are also on vimeo.

Part 2/3: http://vimeo.com/29875053

Part 3/3: http://vimeo.com/30107451

Tom Hickey said...

In my second job interview in 1993, my naive younger self was showing off about how automation could reduce manpower from five to one.

The interviewer listened politely and then said 'and what are those four people going to do for a living now?'.


That was then, Neil, when markets and economies were largely national. Now that we are entering the global economy things have changed a bit. Under neoliberal policies of free markets, free trade, free capital flow a whole new understanding of economic is dawning on the elite, who understand than the global economy is a closed system and national boundaries are not boundaries for them but are for workers.

So add to the above global fungibility of labor, and automation and robotics.

Who is going to absorb the increased production. The global marketplace. The elite see billions of consumers coming online in the coming decades and the ability to produce at every low wage cost. Now it is just a matter of fighting for market share as the global worker compensation levels off.

Workers in the emerging world are going to do much better than workers in the developing world as their living standard rises and the living standard of workers in developed countries falls.

The elite in the developed world have already beefed up domestic security to handle the push back.

Tom Hickey said...

Found it Tom
http://vimeo.com/27393748

course its Adam Curtis not Davies!


Thanks, Andy. Already ordered the DVD so I can see it at correct resolution on the big screen.

andy blatchford said...

@Gee thanks