Mar. 24th, 2016

danieldwilliam: (machievelli)
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.


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