A vigorous debate is going on between economists, stock traders, and investors on if computer A.I. and automation will take all our jobs and destroy the economy. I have been studying this issue for more than a year and I’m ready to give you my final opinion on the subject.
Please take a moment to watch this video of two of my economics teachers debating if machines will take all our jobs and thus destroy the economy. This will give you a good economics foundation on both positions so I can give you my opinion without rehashing the entire argument.
At first, most people will support Tyler Cowen’s position that computer A.I. and automation is bad for the economy. But over time, I think you’ll come to the decision that Alex Tabarrok’s position is the right one.
Let’s take Tyler Cowen’s argument to the extreme. Let’s say that computer automation continues to eliminate good paying jobs and that rich CEOs and business owners make crazy profits while the rest of us go broke without a job. In this scenario, millions of people will be without jobs.
The unemployment rate would rise about 10%, then 15%, then 20% and beyond. What would happened to consumer spending? It would drop as nobody would have any money to buy what these rich CEOs and business owners are producing.
For example, Amazon takes over Whole Foods, eliminates thousands of cashier jobs, and replaces those jobs with automated checkout stands. This lowers the price at which Amazon sells food because of lower labor costs. Now Albertson’s and Walmart, they follow what Amazon does so they too can compete on price. Soon the entire grocery industry becomes mostly automated. Now imagine that this plays out across many sectors beyond just grocery as millions of jobs are replaced by computer automation. If that happens, who is buying what the computer automation is producing? Nobody.
The rich will stop getting richer and the entire economy will implode as the human race destroys civilization through expanded automation and the pursuit of greed at any cost.
Rich people are not stupid. They know that employees are also their customers. Rich corporations and CEOs are not going to advance an agenda that is ultimately going to result in their own destruction. But it’s more than just that, it’s economics.
If computer A.I. and automation caused massive unemployment and poverty, consumer demand would fall through the floor and there would be no demand for the products that computer A.I. and automation creates. Therefore, economics tells us that if there’s no demand, these services and products would cease to exist. Corporations would have no need for automation and so they would stop investing in it and developing it.
Here’s another example. Back in the early 80’s, I was a computer programming prodigy. I learned programming on a Commodore 64 and did things that blew people away. I was going to be a computer programmer when I got out of high-school, or so I thought. By the time I graduated high-school, coders like me with mad skills were obsoleted by “canned software”. Was I out of a job opportunity? Not really. 3D video games used canned 3D engines which allowed games to be produced by a greater number of businesses. Because the engines driving the 3D games were “canned”, it brought down the cost of video games. More people could afford video games at $30 instead of at $90 or more back before canned software. An entire gaming industry rose up and is now a multi-billion dollar industry.
The Internet came soon after and so I started programming websites. I learned Java, HTML, SQL, and PHP. Just when I was getting really good at programming websites, along came the “canned” software again. AOL came out with Rainman in the early 90s and back then, AOL pretty much was the internet for most people. I still got a little bit of work from various businesses but then came out BBS’s which allowed anybody to set up a message forum and put up a dial up website. In the early 2000s came WordPress, another “canned software” that greatly reduced the need for my programming skills. Every business on the planet began putting up a website and shopping cart and the ability to buy things online was born. People began making money selling things online. Was I out of a job? Not really. WordPress lead to millions of people putting up websites and so I finally got smart and realized the money was in content production and selling online and not in computer programming.
If computer automation was something that was so bad for the economy, then why has the internet and automation made the world better for so many people regardless of their income class? If automation (which is what “canned software” essentially is) was something that was bad, economics and the law of supply and demand tells us that its value would eventually go to zero and such automation would stop because their would be no demand for it. But that’s not what has happened. Today, millions of Americans make money online with automated CMS platforms.
I could go on. What about stock trading? Back in the 70s and early 80s, you had to call a broker on the phone and pay $120 a trade or more if you wanted to invest in the stock market. When the internet came out and the discount broker industry sprang up, brokers said it was going to destroy their industry. Did it? Not really. With cheaper trading fees of $10 a trade and lower, millions of Americans began investing in the stock market. Brokers went to work for online discount brokerage firms as more people than ever started investing and stock trading. If the internet and automation was a bad thing, the value of online brokerage firms would eventually drop to zero as demand for their services would eventually come to an end. That’s not what happened. In fact, entire new trading software companies sprang up and even stock trading blogs like GuerillaStockTrading came into being.
Computer automation has created new jobs that no one could even imagine 40 years ago. Automation has increased wealth across all income classes as prices are lowered so consumers are happier and can buy more with their hard earned dollars. The economy becomes deeper and more diverse as life becomes richer with greater opportunities for everyone, even someone who is disabled with Muscular Dystrophy (M.D.) like myself that can’t do a more physically demanding job.
Computer automation has led to so many opportunities that years ago, a disease like Muscular Dystrophy (M.D.) would have doomed me to poverty because physically I’m unable to do a lot of jobs. Today, I can work a day job in an office as a bookkeeper and in IT support, and at night I can stock trade and produce value for others over the internet blogging about the stock market. I’ve never been on government assistance and a burden to tax payers even though I have M.D. thanks to computer automation creating a deep and diverse economy.
For every change there’s always another opportunity of equal or greater value waiting.
Therefore, my final opinion on computer A.I. and automation is that it’s a positive for the economy. I don’t believe that computer A.I. and automation is going to take all of our jobs because of economics and the law of supply and demand. If it did take all of our jobs, it would cease to be. Our goal then is to find emerging opportunities in this space that we can invest in and make a fortune over the coming years.
You may be angry because you lost your job to automation and so you don’t agree with me. That’s fine. I understand this is a highly debated topic even among brilliant economists. This is only my personal opinion based on my own life experiences and observations that I wanted to share with you.