Is our current unemployment malaise of cyclical or structural nature? According to Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz the answer is more stimulus, more government printed money washing through the economy as if at a luxury spa where we massage the human wallet; in reality its a sort of trickle down where the parched lips of those at the bottom get to wash down the crumbs with a limited ration of water droplets, hoping no one has spit in the trough. No doubt, technological unemployment is here is to stay in the medium term: robotics and computer software is going to displace millions putting unemployment at approximately Depression era levels; maybe not 1933 but at the 1938-39 level.
It will take a good four or five years for employment to find its niche and adapt but until then we are faced with the prospects of the old Marxists coming out of the closet or grave; the Slavoj Zizek’s Lacaning us to tears,Noam Chomsky gallows do-it-yourself kits, Susan Sarandon showing the flag at an “Occupy” event and Michael Moore or Thomas Friedman waxing eloquent in their 12,000 square foot homes. It could be ugly since there has to be scapegoats to be burned alive. The whole tax or confiscate the 1%, hang the rich, nationalize them into oblivion makes no sense. The extra 50-60 billion$ is chicken feed in an 1.3 trillion$ hole, perhaps symbolic but not significant.
Steve Kroft on Sixty Minutes CBS: ( see link at end)…And it’s not just going on in warehouses. El Camino Hospital in California’s Silicon Valley has a fleet of robots called tugs that ferry meals to patients, medicines to doctors and nurses, blood samples to the lab and dirty linen to the laundry.
A hospital spokesman told us the tugs are supposed to supplement nurses and hospital staff – not replace them. But he also believes that robots and humans working together is the beginning of a new era.
Robots are now wielding scalpels for surgeons, assisting in the most delicate operations — allowing them to see and snip their way through prostate surgeries with minimal damage. And they have begun filling prescriptions in hospital dispensaries and local pharmacies.
Economic evolution has been going on for centuries and society has always successfully adapted to technological change creating more jobs in the process. But Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT think this time may be different.