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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Feb 20, 2018

[I am not an economist or an expert on this topic. This is my attempt to figure out what economists and experts think so I can understand the issue, and I’m writing it down to speed your going through the same process. If you have more direct access to economists and experts, feel free to ignore this]

Technological unemployment is a hard topic because there are such good arguments on both sides.

The argument against: we’ve had increasing technology for centuries now, people have been predicting that technology will put them out of work since the Luddites, and it’s never come true. Instead, one of two things have happened. Either machines have augmented human workers, allowing them to produce more goods at lower prices, and so expanded industries so dramatically that overall they employ more people. Or displaced workers from one industry have gone into another – stable boys becoming car mechanics, or the like. There are a bunch of well-known theoretical mechanisms that compensate for technological displacement – see Vivarelli for a review. David Autor gives a vivid example: