IMHO, the "long run" problems Martin discusses need to be postponed: we don't know enough about the future to even begin to think intelligently about them. The "medium run" problems, by contrast, deserve a lot of attention right now: Martin Wolf: Work in the age of intelligent machines: "How do you organise a society in which few people do anything economically productive?...

...Adair Turner... He started from the assumption that intelligent machines will ultimately be able to perform most forms of current work better than people and at lower cost.... This future will not come evenly: some will be more affected far sooner than others. Moreover, even if intelligent machines cannot do every aspect of any given job, they can displace a great many workers. With current technology, predictable physical tasks and collecting and processing of data will be especially vulnerable.... The picture for the medium-term future: sluggish overall productivity growth and worsening inequality. This is inconsistent with stable democracy....

In the medium term, so long as there is a reasonable prospect of jobs for people who want to work, the crucial policy will be subsidising jobs. It is also vital to fund high-quality public services for all.... In the longer term, our descendants may face even more existential decisions (provided the machines allow them to make them). How might they organise society in a world in which few people can do anything that is obviously economically productive? The world might become techno-feudal, with an owning elite hiring great numbers of cheap human servants not for their value, but for the pleasure of domination. People might instead share the abundance more equally, with all enjoying the civilised leisure that was once the province of the very few. Ours is the first civilisation to view work as the highest calling. Maybe that strange prejudice will need to be discarded.

That is for the distant future, however, though one we must think about now. But the trends under way demand action. If the natural tendency of our economies is towards ever-rising rent extraction and inequality, with all its dire social and political results, we need to respond in a thoughtful and determined way. That is the great challenge...


#shouldread

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