Many people fear robots will take all the jobs. This fear drives a number of policy proposals, from Universal Basic Income to taxing or regulating robots. Today I want to talk about what actually happens in automation, and what we should expect in the future.
In a sense, fearing automation is bizarre. We could understand if we were living in medieval Europe, where generation-to-generation there was almost no innovation. Perhaps an improved wagon axle would be the biggest innovation in a lifetime — “Imagine, junior, how hard it was for Mom and me growing up with those dodgy axles.”
But, instead, here we sit in the midst of history’s greatest natural experiment on jobs and automation: the Industrial Revolution. Which is very specifically 200 years now of machine replacing man.
We’ve got an almost unique historical advantage of knowing precisely what happens when countries industrialize, when Ethiopia, say, becomes Switzerland — more jobs, better jobs, better standard of living. Indeed, industrialized countries have far less need for handouts than un-industrialized countries, specifically because of automation — replacing human labor with physical capital.Continue reading… “More Robots, More Jobs”