Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Being a Little Less Gloomy

I have a little bit more to say on yesterday's gloomy robotics post.  The point I wanted to add is that this will inevitably become a huge political issue.  At the moment, the consensus that innovation is always good is not seriously questioned on either side of the political spectrum, except by a relatively small fringe (though Kevin Drum - definitely not a fringe character - did link to yesterday's post in broad agreement).  But as the processes of automation and technological unemployment continue, this will inevitably change.  Obviously, we will not create 100% unemployment amongst humans without provoking a massive political backlash along the way.

The nature of the kinds of exponentials involved is such that it will appear as though change is relatively slow until suddenly robots are popping up everywhere and job loss is threatening people who matter (or at least their kids).  So at some point - perhaps in the 2020s or 2030s - this will become a red hot political issue that everyone is talking about.  Then it will be possible to campaign for reform (reform being the preferable alternative to revolution - but one that doesn't get much traction until there is a credible fear of revolution).

So the task now is mainly one of thinking - of figuring out when the moment comes, what should we be trying to do?  What kinds of cultural changes will be needed, and what kinds of changes to legal institutions can produce a reasonably enduring human society in which people aren't like something out of WALL-E?  Clearly the main changes will have to come in the way we think about and regulate the innovation process.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Global Robot Population

The Median Influencer

This blog post is being largely outsourced from this Interfluidity post Depression is a Choice by the often brilliantly insightful Steve Randy Waldman:
Usually, economists are admirably catholic about the preferences of the objects they study. They infer desire by observing behavior, listening to what people do more than to what they say. But with respect to national polities, macroeconomists presume the existence of an overwhelming preference for GDP growth and full employment that simply does not exist. They act as though any other set of preferences would be unreasonable, unthinkable.

But the preferences of developed, aging polities — first Japan, now the United States and Europe — are obvious to a dispassionate observer. Their overwhelming priority is to protect the purchasing power of incumbent creditors. That’s it. That’s everything. All other considerations are secondary. These preferences are reflected in what the polities do, how they behave. They swoop in with incredible speed and force to bail out the financial sectors in which creditors are invested, trampling over prior norms and laws as necessary. The same preferences are reflected in what the polities omit to do. They do not pursue monetary policy with sufficient force to ensure expenditure growth even at risk of inflation. They do not purse fiscal policy with sufficient force to ensure employment even at risk of inflation. They remain forever vigilant that neither monetary ease nor fiscal profligacy engender inflation. The tepid policy experiments that are occasionally embarked upon they sabotage at the very first hint of inflation. The purchasing power of holders of nominal debt must not be put at risk. That is the overriding preference, in context of which observed behavior is rational.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

European Industrial Production


Up half a percent in February - that's the second half decent month in a row.  Hmmm...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012