Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The image of the machines we’ve built to do our work rising up and taking over, is a classic Sci-Fi plot that is presented in a scary but unrealistic way, but what if its already happening?
I’ve just been over to Martin Ford’s website, and he didn’t say it directly but he is basically saying the machines are taking over.
Automation is increasing productivity without needing more workers so for the last 10 years the workforce has shrank. Basically if this trend continues, and there is no reason to believe it won’t, the cost of making any product and most services will shrink to the point where they are almost but not quite free.
The problem is there will be no reason to hire someone to make something or provide a service, so the vast majority of humans won’t be able to buy these goods even at a cheaper cost.
In the past we’ve always stayed ahead of the productivity gains with new innovations that transform the economy. I truly believe we can do this again, by ending this recession with a green revolution, end the next one with opening up Space, but what about the one after that?
Given the unrelenting force of the automation’s push for greater productivity eventually we won’t be able continue our current economic system if we even can now.
The idea of the free market deciding how to use resources will break down as goods become almost but not quite free. We will soon need to decide on a path for humanity to take.
The increasing productivity of Automated Systems has been seen as the light at the end of the tunnel, signaling humanities freedom from manual and repetitive labor, but that light might belong to freight train that is coming right at us.