Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Robots are great and we need more of them to make stuff for us...


I get ever more irritated by the bonkers notion that technological advance and improvement is a bad thing for the economy. You see it churned out all over, mostly (but not always) by the good thinking Guardian left. These folk just don't get it:

It's about technology taking jobs, about what it can and can't provide. Hoskyns quotes Jaron Lanier's new book Who Owns The Future?, in which he argues: "Capitalism only works if there are enough successful people to be customers." Lanier, a computer scientist and a musician, is rightly called a visionary because he sees what is happening, when everything is live-streamed but no one knows the name of the person who made the music any more. Content is free.

This is just plain daft. Free is good. We like free - not only is it a magic word but, more to the point, it's an improvement on 'costs so much only people such as Guardian journalists can afford it'. Now in one respect, Lanier is right but his emphasis is still on production rather than consumption. We aren't here to produce stuff, we're here to consume stuff - even if we love our fabulous creative industries job, that's consumption (we're eating up the pleasure).

So yes robots and digital wizardry will "destroy jobs" (this translates as 'makes things a whole lot cheaper because you don't have to pay wages') but all the while new playthings are being invented - think how many people are scraping an adequate living from creating stuff to make use of that digital wizardry, for example. And, so long as the idiot protectionist lefties don't get to control things, stuff gets cheaper so we don't have to work as hard as we do now to get the good stuff. Brilliant!

So no, it's simply not the case and never has been the case, that technical innovation is bad for the economy. Protectionism, subsidised overmanning and the refusal to embrace technology - that was what caused China's 500 year stagnation. And if we adopt the same approach, we will stagnate, there really won't be the jobs we need and future Suzanne Moore types really will be scraping by in some rat-plagued garret.

So let's grab that technology, let's get it working for us, let's shove aside the barriers - unions, business oligopolies, MPs and silly Guardian writers - and get the robots working. We'll all be richer, less frazzled by work and more able to have a bloody great time with the few years we get living on this wonderful planet.


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