Saturday, December 29, 2012

"The Singularity-- A great robots vs capital linkfest"

That's the headline Felix Salmon put on this link at his Counterparties post.

Two points:
1) Who knew Izabella Kaminska had a Tumblr blog and didn't tell me?
2) What else aren't you telling me?

From Towards A Leisure Society:

The tech debate blasts off (a linkfest)
It took almost a year for me to be taken seriously on the “technology is undermining capital” front,  so it was extremely exciting to see the debate blast off in serious economic circles during the last quarter of 2012.
I thought it might be useful, as a result, to provide some links to the most recent developments — since the debate really is moving quickly now.

But before doing so I would like to stress that I appreciate that the debate itself is not new. Ricardo, the Luddites, Keynes, Marx and many more have all considered the impact of technology on labour and capital.
But, as I’ve written previously, it’s almost as if the entire economic and financial community decided to collectively forget about how tech influences capital following the dotcom crash. Like the bubble and bust proved once and for all that the “new economy” theory was flawed, and that bringing it up again could turn out to be embarrassing — thus better left ignored.

One of the criticisms I face all the time, meanwhile, is that all this tech innovation has been going on for centuries. Why should there be a crisis of capital now? What makes this time any different? And what makes my sudden focus on tech relevant?...MUCH, MUCH MORE
She is not being immodest with that first line, at times she was the only person writing about what may have appeared to be an economics backwater but is actually the convergence of at least a half dozen different strands of thought on what may well be the core economic question for the next thirty years:
What the hell is going to happen?
Okay, it could be phrased a bit more elegantly and if I were paid by the word or chasing tenure with erudite papers I could flesh it out a bit, but that is the question.
And right now no one has the answer

If you missed it here is her piece in the Dec. 27, 2012 Financial Times:
In an economy not so far, far away

Will we see a system like ‘Star Trek’ or the dystopia of ‘Star Wars’? asks Izabella Kaminska
Imagine a time when all undesirable work is done by automated systems or robots. What would it mean? Would there be a financial crisis? What would happen to labour and capital?
These are some of the deeper questions economists are asking when not preoccupied by short-term worries about the fiscal cliff, a Chinese slowdown or the eurozone.

At the heart of their inquiry lies an assumption: that technology will improve no matter what. Ever since Gordon Moore predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors on a microchip would double every two years, it has been a hard presumption to ignore. The theory, which was dubbed Moore’s law on account of its accuracy, is still to be disproved.

Yet some believe it won’t be long before it – and the technological rate of progress it stands for – fails.
Robert Gordon of Northwestern University argues that the technological progress of the past 250 years could be a unique historical episode. He cites falling productivity levels and rising inequality as evidence that living standards are no longer improving as quickly. My colleague Martin Wolf shares some of these concerns, asking in an October column whether unlimited growth may be a thing of the past.
A novel interpretation of this trend is starting to gain credibility among some economists: it is not that technology is stagnating but that monopoly interests are suppressing innovation. And the incentives for them to do so are increasing.

Put a different way, companies have an interest in sabotaging progress and efficiency because not doing so could lead to the sort of abundance that might make it impossible to monetise anything. After all, how can you mark up manna that falls from heaven?...MORE
Companies also have a financial interest in regulatory regimes that stifle younger/smaller competitors but that's a story for another day.

And don't get Ms. Iz going on Safe Assets, that too is a story for another day week .