Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Technology May Immiserate Humanity

"Will smart machines, which are rapidly replacing workers in a wide range of jobs, produce economic misery or prosperity?"

That's the question posed in Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement, a National Bureau of Economic Research working paper. The authors create a model to see how technological progress will impact the human economy. The model's outcome is, to use the authors' term, "disturbing."

The results of the model show that the growing legacy of software code may very well put the human economy out of business. "As the stock of legacy code grows," say the researchers, "the demand for new code and, thus for high-tech workers, falls." Former high-tech workers will seek jobs in low-tech occupations, driving those wages down. Smart machines are now on track to immiserate humanity, and open-source technology is likely to make matters worse. The researchers recommend generation-specific redistribution policies that could soften the blow.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, Robots Are Us: Some Economics of Human Replacement, NBER Working Paper 20941 ($5)

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