danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
[personal profile] danieldwilliam
I read this interview transcript with Robert Gordon, author of the Rise and Fall of American Growth.

He's in the End of Growth school and has some particular observations on the impact of this on the USA.

To summarise the End of Growth school's argument; they suggest that technological innovation has slowed and that the new products it is producing are not transformative in the way that the new consumer products of the 3rd Industrial Revolution were. We might make existing things a little more cheaply or a little better but we already have, warm dry homes, near instantaneous communications, rapid personal transport, effective medicine, easy to run homes and broadcast entertainment. They suggest that there is nothing that big to come, probably ever again. And that that nothing new is going to arrive much more slowly than we have gotten used to.

Both points I fundamentally disgree with. I think there are transformative technologies to come and I think they will come more, not less rapidly, than we say in the 20th Century. More on that anon.

However, even if I'm wrong I think there is a fundamental transformation of society to come brought about by the application of technology that is currently in development. What if everything was free?

I think, even without radical new products the combination of machine intellegence, robotic manufacturing, autonomously operating vehicles, machine vision, data handling, the softwareisation of knowledge and machine scheduling of manufacturing and ordering puts a long-term and sustained pressure on the production costs of many household items. A second trend I observe is that the long run cost of energy is about to be capped by rewewables and then that cap is going to slow fall over the coming decades. The combination of human free production of material goods and cheap and stable energy means that living a dignified life, for most people, most of the time, becomes practically free.

With expanded production frontiers some combination of increased leisure time (either voluntary or forced) or fierce competition for position goods or housing.

And along with the increased leisure comes a reduction in the precariousness of living. Dignity and comfort can be maintained for very little, so savings and social security can ensure the wherewithall for a decent material standard of living easily. No more fear.

Social housing, either mediated through the state of the family is going to be a crucial element of the 21st Century.

There may not be radical new solutions to problems that oppress humanity but quantity has a quality all of its own - especially that quantity is available for free.

Date: 2016-03-24 11:21 am (UTC)
andrewducker: (Illuminati)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Yeah, my feeling about the "innovation has stopped" people can be neatly summed up here.

And yes, while "A 2016 western middle-class lifestyle for everyone on the planet" would disappoint me as an end-goal for humanity, fuck me if it wouldn't be a massive improvement for the vast majority of the world.

Date: 2016-03-24 11:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
Yeah, it's perhaps an uninspiring goal but, your dead right, what an improvement for everyone. Not just poor people in poor countries who get most of the benefit but a huge boon to us in the richer nations with fewer wars and famines and disasters and fewer refugees and a more bi-direction flow of migration.

But what is insprining about everyone having a western 21st century middle class life are three things. Firstly, its a great starting point for the future of humanity. With everyone living in comfort we can start thinking about what we do next. Secondly, if I'm right and the material standard of living is also very cheap, what a transformation to be able to spend much more time with family and friends and passions and hobbies - to live the Good Life and not just the Material Life. Thirdly, freedom from fear. With a universal and cheap middle class lifestyle no one need worry that their life will blow up and they will lose access to the material and social goods of life. I would also expect that with broad and deep prospertity the incidence of war and civil strife will reduce and communities all over the world will be as resilliant in the face of natural disasters as we are.

(I'm going to edit the OP to bring out the precariousness point.)

Date: 2016-03-24 11:56 am (UTC)
andrewducker: (Illuminati)
From: [personal profile] andrewducker
Yes. It's a pretty utopian vision. But that's what you get with cheap power.

*crosses fingers*

Date: 2016-03-24 01:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] momentsmusicaux.livejournal.com
> effective medicine

Where are the re-growing limbs, the self-repairing teeth, and painless injections?

Lots of progress still to be made!

Date: 2016-03-24 01:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danieldwilliam.livejournal.com
Well, yes. One of the things that makes me personally not think that we've reached the end of transformative products.

Re-growing limbs, curing or preventing degenertive brain diseases, extending healthy living from roughly 70 to 100 would all be pretty transformative. Perhaps not on the same order of magnitude as reducing deaths in child birth from likely to rare or infant mortality from 50% to 0.5% but still hugely good.

Date: 2016-03-26 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rhythmaning.livejournal.com

Remember "the end of history"? Uh huh.

Basically, the internet is, for most people, only twenty years old. I don't think we have even started to see what it can do.

...we HAVE started, but I hope you get my point...!


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