Designing the future of work

Originally published at:

Alas, given that human nature hasn’t changed over the six thousand or so years we have evidence for, the idea that it might change in a fraction of that time seems improbable to me.

No economic or political system has really ever survived for more than a couple of generations before the, for want of a better word, sociopaths figure out how to game it. The lucky periods are the ones where the new system was largely already ready to take over; most of the time, however, bloody revolution (or, worse, full-scale war) was necessary first.

I admire the optimism in this piece, but it feels to me as though we’re already too late. Part of the problem is that the political systems in the US and the UK particularly (but elsewhere too) are disintegrating, meaning that the politicians who are supposed to monitor this sort of thing are being a little distracted (and/or being bought off, although I think that’s a lot less of a problem than it is sometimes made out to be.)


I agree. Over time US workers (and probably worldwide) become more and more efficient, but they share none of the profits from that increased productivity. What that means today is that wages have stagnated for forty years. But if productivity climbs further while demand drops (due to depressed wages,) the need for workers will evaporate. If one hundred guys could make all your Wal*Mart goods, do you think they would hire ten thousand? If they had their druthers, they’d hire 200 part-timers and deny them benefits.

The Invisible Hand will not solve this problem, unless the solution is starvation. We’ve been trained for forty years to distrust government, but they will soon prove to be the only force pushing back. We have a presidential candidate who says that wages are too high. My guess is that things will get much, much worse before they get better.


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