Sunday, December 4, 2011

Economics of the Singularity

I recently read part of this book: "The Lights in the Tunnel". I don't think it makes a lot of sense in terms of the outcome - the economy collapses from lack of demand as unemployment rises. But the basic idea is intriguing. Up till now machines and computers have taken over many tasks but they have acted as "q-complements" to labor in general and particularly skilled labor.* But could the future be one where all simple tasks are automated and the remaining jobs are too hard for people of ordinary ability to do?** And what happens when/if the "Singularity" occurs - when computers become more intelligent than humans? Does inequality continue to grow beyond anything we see today? Will redistribution increase? Is there a middle way? Is this whole idea totally mistaken? Or will humans be enhanced by genetic manipulation or implanting of non-biological computers?

There are economists and entrepreneurs/technologists who have thought about this. But I don't think anyone has any real answers yet.

* If an increase in an input increases the marginal product of another input then those two inputs are q-complements.
** More precisely the most that anyone is willing to pay for a human to do these automatable tasks is less than the minimum amount needed for subsistence.

1 comment:

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