"More than machinery, we need humanity."

Paul Krugman, Robots, Economic Inequality

Apparently machines are taking jobs that used to be performed by humans and this is having negative effects. Is this the plot to some new Science Fiction film or the mad ramblings of some technophobe? No, this is a sentiment now being put forth by Paul Krugman, who (for the record) is a card-carrying member of the club of serious people who other serious people listen to.

Appearing on Business Insider Krugman discusses (briefly) how income is shifting away from labor to capital, how the “inequality story” is changing, and how “technology has shifted in a way that really favors capital over labor, that makes it possible to replace people with machines, but with, you know, with a lot of machines.”

Particularly worth noting is the moment when the interviewer (Joe Weisenthal) poses a question (he poses it as if its coming from some other critic) about what has changed, saying “technology has been evolving for hundreds of years and things keep getting better, what’s different this time?” What is worth noting is Krugman’s response: “it is not the case that eras of technological progress are always periods during which workers are doing better.”

What makes the interview interesting is precisely that this is not a new observation, but that it is now being voiced by a person with quite a bit of clout (Krugman). And what seems rather comical is the timing. After all, Krugman is not warning against something that is about to happen unless action is taken, he is voicing belated concern about something that has already happened. Worries about the impact of automation on workers is nothing new, neither are fears of technology negatively impacting the workforce.

One can only hope that Krugman’s concern represents more people (and economists) beginning to realize that machines are causing quite a bit of economic harm. At least insofar as the majority of people are concerned. And yet, as their conversation about technology and economic equality makes clear, for many workers this conversation is already too little too late.

The video was also posted on The Huffington Post.



About Z.M.L

“I do not believe that things will turn out well, but the idea that they might is of decisive importance.” – Max Horkheimer @libshipwreck

One comment on “Paul Krugman, Robots, Economic Inequality

  1. Pingback: Do Robots Play Solitaire When the Boss Isn’t Looking? | LibrarianShipwreck

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This entry was posted on February 3, 2013 by in Economics, Luddism, Technology and tagged , , , .

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