Over the past five years, American politics has become obsessed with robots.
President Obama has warned that ATMs and airport check-in kiosks are contributing to high unemployment. Sen. Marco Rubio said that the central challenge of our times is “to ensure that the rise of the machines is not the fall of the worker.” A cover story in the Atlantic asked us to ponder the problems of a world without work. And in the New York Times, Barbara Ehrenrich warns that “the job-eating maw of technology now threatens even the nimblest and most expensively educated.”
The good news is that these concerns are wrong. None of the recent problems in the American economy are due to robots — or, to be more specific about it, due to an accelerating pace of automation. Moreover, even if the pace of automation does speed up in the future, there’s no real reason to believe that it will be a problem.
The bad news is that these concerns are wrong. Rather than an accelerating pace of automation, we’ve actually been living through a slowdown in the pace of productivity growth. And that slowdown is a huge problem. Unless it reverses, we’ll be waking up soon to find ourselves in a depressing world of longer working years, unmanageable health-care needs, higher taxes, and a public sector starved of needed infrastructure resources.
In other words, don’t worry that the robots will take your job. Be terrified that they won’t…..