Sunday, May 22, 2011

in search of the way forward

An old acquaintance suggested I check out Martin Ford's "The Lights in the Tunnel" which I'm in the process of doing.

The fast, first-pass take is a little scary. It seems to be about how the economy is falling apart because too many people have no purchasing power, because their jobs have been shipped offshore, automated, or both.

Ford has some suggestions about how to deal with this and I've had some thoughts along these lines myself, so I anticipate using his writings to reenergize and hone my own thinking and sharing the result of that process here.

One tentative conclusion I'd reached just shortly before hearing about "The Lights in the Tunnel" was that, generally speaking, when robotics is applied to bringing a better approach to bear to some task (doing things in progressively greater detail, taking more and more into account) the result is usually a net gain in employment. I'm not sure this is generally true, but I'm nearly certain it's true in circumstances where people have already been all but completely replaced by machines, such as is the case in modern agriculture, where humans have mostly been relegated to the role of machine operator, serving as the control unit that it hadn't until quite recently been possible to build.

The application of robotics to the conduct of horticulture on an agricultural scale is a longtime theme for me; I have another blog on that subject, so chances are I'll be returning to that example from time to time, but, as Ford is at some pains to point out, this is an issue which transcends any category of economic activity.

It is clear at the outset that it is the inertia of our socioeconomic arrangements that threatens a crisis in response to the liberation being made possible by emerging technologies, and, with another set of such arrangements we don't yet know to name, we might welcome that liberation as a godsend.

More to follow...

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