Is this time really different? That’s the argument whenever people want to ignore the lessons of history (eg arguing that this particular financial bubble/commodity boom will never burst) and such claims usually merit a bucketload of scepticism. On the other hand (climate change, nuclear war) sometimes things really are different from everything that has gone before.
Which brings us to technology. Lots of musings are circulating about the rise of Artificial Intelligence, automation etc. Driverless cars will put millions of drivers out of work. Robots will kill off manufacturing jobs. Everything will change.
At the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab talks of ‘the fourth industrial revolution’. The bible is the Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies, a 2014 book by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. Even President Obama has caught the bug, in a recent profile in the New Yorker
‘At some point, when the problem is not just Uber but driverless Uber, when radiologists are losing their jobs to A.I., then we’re going to have to figure out how do we maintain a cohesive society and a cohesive democracy in which productivity and wealth generation are not automatically linked to how many hours you put in, where the links between production and distribution are broken.’
Which all raises a whole series of questions – is it true? If so, is that a Good/Bad Thing and for whom? Much too substantial for a blog post, but here are a few thoughts and links.