Roubini on robots

I’ve put up some of my rough thoughts on the implications of technological development for employment and society previously (here and here). So I was interested to read a great blog post that Nouriel Roubini wrote on the implications of changes in manufacturing and technology, for employment. It’s not a detailed piece, but I think it makes some interesting points. Particularly, he speculates/wonders/argues, these changes are likely to be:

  • capital intensive (favors those who already have money and other resources);
  • skills biased (favors those who already have a high level of technical skill); and
  • labor saving (reduces the total number of jobs in the economy).

He also notes that while in the past the services sector has generated significant employment, that may no longer be the case.

And if I can quote him again, in a fascinating speculation, he argues that while Keynes thought technology would enable us all to work 15 hours a week (max), in fact:

But in the Brave New World of labor-saving technology, it seems, 20% of the labor force will work 120 hours a week while the other 80% will have no jobs and no income.

That social impact is, to my mind, the crucial part. The kind of change that might happen is enormous; if it does, it would have broad implications for how societies are structured, and I don’t think we’ve necessarily begun to think through what that means.


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