David M. Brown's Blog

August 1, 2016

No, automation is not a productivity-killer

Filed under: Economics,Society and culture,Technology,trade — davidmbrowndotcom @ 9:36 am

Contrary to GeekWire’s Alan Boyle and, apparently, Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds, automation is not “the biggest challenge to jobs” if by that is meant the biggest challenge to a high-employment and highly productive economy.

Automation improves productivity. It enables you to do more stuff with less time and grunting. Automation is not a “challenge to jobs,” even if it makes specific jobs irrelevant because people don’t have to do them any longer. Do we really want to lament that we’re not 90% farmers these days because of vastly improved technological methods of agriculture, or that the candle and buggy makers were once thrown out of work by light bulbs and automobiles? New means of productivity require new kinds of jobs.

The point of any productive work is to produce something of value so that one can directly and indirectly sustain one’s life; it is not to cling to a (static, never-changing) job as an end in itself. That technological progress has gone beyond flint, spears and bear skins is not a tragedy.

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