Wednesday, June 29, 2011

is Martin Ford right enough? does it matter?

In evaluating Martin Ford's thesis in The Lights in the Tunnel, the question isn't whether he's entirely right. Rather, to have no point he must be entirely wrong, otherwise the danger remains that he might be right enough, that the process he outlines might in fact result in economic collapse due to a collapse of effective demand (demand combined with purchasing power), brought about by a too many jobs being taken away by automation.

On the other hand, does it really matter, given an economy that seems to depend, for its long-term health, on an infinite supply of land, water, raw materials, and labor (or its mechanical substitute), an infinite market, and an infinite landfill, none of which actually exist? If the collapse of demand doesn't bring it down, something else will.

The need to fundamentally restructure our economic arrangements is looming and unavoidable.

Moreover, by reducing the need for anyone to engage in dangerous or demeaning work, robotics may actually make this transformation easier.

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