The Human Basis Of Technology
Technology is progressing at an amazing pace. Robots and computerized automation are making processes much more efficient and less costly. The benefit is that, as goods and services become more available, prices tend to drop. As a case-in-point, computer prices keep declining even as the capabilities keep multiplying. The standard of living rises as the relative cost of living falls.
All markets are dynamic and ever-changing. They constantly adjust to demographic movements, to changes in taste, to alterations in the weather and natural environments, and millions of other inputs. People are competitive and try to get an edge, giving their goods and services more value by innovating in their tools and processes to produce better quality, price, features, and even snob-appeal. Technologies are the tools.
In other cases, technology itself is the end product. Such tech advancements directly enhance lives by giving consumers more time, more entertainment, and so on. Some people may argue whether or not people really are better off having more “toys,” and there is certainly a case that can be made that much of it is wasted, but the fact that people buy it is irrefutable proof that they value it more than they value the money or other resources they trade for it.
Many smart technologists express growing concern that, as computers and robots with artificial intelligence become more advanced, they will exceed the capacities of humans for every kind of work. The ultimate result would be that robots will put most human beings out of work. Wealth will accumulate in the hands of the few owners and the rest of us will starve or exist at the mercy of the elite few and dependent upon them for subsistence.
This scenario results from a one-sided analysis of a multifaceted phenomenon. It is certainly true that there will be at least some dislocation with rapid changes in the economy, as there have in the past. One commentary used the horse as an example, saying that technology didn’t make more and better jobs for horses over the last century. It simply eliminated the need for them. According to that line of thinking, it is silly to believe that technology will make more and better jobs for human workers, even though that is what happened throughout history.
What is really silly about it is that horses didn’t have jobs. They were simply capital investments that actual people made to become more productive. As new, more-efficient capital developed, the old capital became obsolete. People, on the other hand, are not capital. They are the economy. They participate on both sides of every transaction. They are buyers and sellers, suppliers and demanders, employers and employees. In order for producers to earn profits, they need consumers with money to purchase them. Jobs will most certainly change over time, but human work will never be eliminated, because without them, the consuming side of the transaction disappears.
As technology becomes more pervasive and less-expensive, more people will be able to afford it to become more efficient at what they do. People will become bot owners to compete against other bot owners, as the economy and society slowly evolves to absorb the new reality. This will happen with utmost certainty, unless politicians and their cronies prevent it from happening.
One of the major threats to improvement for the general population is the irresponsible actions of central banks that prevent the deflation in prices that necessarily accompanies improving productivity. By artificially inflating general prices, they steal productivity and prevent the cost of living from declining and the standard of living from rising. If lives don’t improve with higher productivity and technology, it will be only because politicians think they know better.
Dan McLaughlin is the author of “Compassion and Truth-Why Good Intentions Don’t Equal Good Results.” Follow him at daniel-mclaughlin.com