By Gavin Kelly
"JM Keynes, writing in 1930 as the Great Depression intensified, was prophetic about today’s public anxieties. “We are suffering from a bad attack of economic pessimism … people say that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down.” He dismissed this sentiment, putting it down to the upheaval of rapid economic change, and argued that his generation’s grandchildren – today’s baby-boomers – would be better off, which of course they are.
"We should be equally confident our own grandchildren will also grow up in a digital economy that is far richer than today’s, driven on in large part by further technological breakthroughs. It’s harder than ever, though, to have the same confidence that this greater prosperity will be evenly shared out in the “age of the robot”.
Jim Lerman's insight:
Of course, no one knows what the overall impact will be of the accelerating and inexorable march of technology, as reflected, in this article, by the growing sophistication of robots. Kelly attempts a balanced perspective, showcasing both doomsday and growth-oriented scenarios. His take on the most likely outcome is a shrinking middle class and growth of both the working poor and the upper classes.
Kelly does add this intriguing thought: "The rise of the robot is likely, for instance, to result in an increasing share of GDP flowing to the owners of capital at the expense of labor – something that has recently been occurring across many OECD countries (though less so in the UK than is often assumed). An acceleration of this should rekindle interest in finding ways to distribute the ownership of assets more evenly as well as finally prompting a serious discussion about shifting some of the burden of taxation from labor towards wealth. "