The single biggest economic problem

Friday, November 17, 2017

 

Everything we’re doing right now is irrelevant. Brexit, Trump, terrorism - they’re all temporary distractions, the prelude before an economic bombshell to come. We’re building sandcastles on a beach about to be hit by a tsunami, and it’s coming way sooner than we think.

 

Gordon Moore, born on January 3rd 1929, is an American billionaire and the co-founder of Intel. He’s also known for a technological theory we refer to as Moore’s Law - you’ve probably heard of it. In computing terms, it’s the historical trend that the number of transistors per square inch of an integrated circuit doubles every 24 months.

 

To everyone else, it basically means our computers get twice as efficient, every two years. So, if you drew a basic graph, it would slope upwards; each and every 24 months we make more progress than we have in the rest of humanity.

 

Moore’s Law has become a bellwether for technological advancement in general. This article does a pretty good job breaking down the various other laws that more or less conform to this trend. The rate of change is getting faster and faster and faster. We’ve made more progress in the last 2,000 years than we did in the previous 20,000. Done more in the last 200 than in the prior 2,000. Taken larger leaps in the last 20 than in the previous 200.

 

The average human a few hundred years ago could live their life pretty safe in the knowledge that the world when they die would look largely the same as when they’re born. Today, we can’t even guarantee it will look the same in a few decades.

 

We’ve got hyper-fast flying cars, we’ve got pollution-cleansing skyscrapers, even some form of primitive hologram. These things would have been dismissed as farcical fantasy only 20 years ago, and now they’re here. Who knows where we’ll be in the next 30? Any economist who points to any one hypothetical technology, and says “THAT isn’t possible”, is kidding themselves. All bets are off, we’ve got to keep an open mind.

 

Okay, technology is accelerating. So what? Well, it’s going to uproot every way we live our lives, and by extension the politics of it.

 

Let’s say that sometime in the near future, a cure for cancer will be invented. Not guaranteed, but not inconceivable either. The technology will be all around us, private doctors bestowing the treatment upon those limited few who can afford it. Our NHS will have to gain the capacity to adopt this cure, and countless other innovations, as they arrive. Popular pressure will just be too great.

 

The breakthroughs will be flooding in at an ever increasing rate. Whoever’s in government will have to keep up, renewing our public utilities accordingly, as the pressure builds. Any politician who refuses to do that, will be voted out and replaced by someone who will.

 

 

 

Imagine we were sitting here today, in 2017, with all the advancements we’ve made, and East Coast was still ferrying people around using 19th century steam engines; a fraction the speed of modern-day trains. That’s what we’re facing, unless government seriously picks up the pace at which it adopts new technologies. Elon Musk’s hyperloop, 5G mobile signal, super-cheap renewable energy. We’re gunna have to be ready for all of them, as they come.

 

As with any prediction anywhere in the political sphere, of course, this all rests on the assumption that by then we haven’t fried the planet to a crisp with reckless pollution. Environmental protection has got to be at the heart of our response to both this crisis, and the one about to be discussed. Nothing is more important.

 

All this pales in comparison, though, to the impact technology will have upon our workforce - the very fundamentals of how our economy functions.

 

Private businesses aren’t going to see any logic in recruiting workers, paying them £23,000 each and every year in salary, when they can purchase a robot doing the same tasks for markedly less. It’s just the way capitalism works; anyone who doesn’t take that initiative is going to go out of business within months. They’ll be outpriced on an astronomical scale.

 

In the past, humans have been able to escape the oncoming tide of automation. We retreated to higher ground, occupying jobs of greater skill, the robots couldn’t attain. This time it’s different. Artificial intelligence is on the verge of surpassing human intellect; it’s not a matter of if, but when. Every few weeks now, we’re hearing of some new milestone - deep learning overcoming us in some field previously thought impossible. Once that happens, there’ll be nowhere for us to run to.

 

These aren’t baseless, fanciful predictions - they’re becoming mainstream economic consensus. Back in 2015, the Bank of England released a paper released a paper forecasting up to half of UK jobs being replaced by 2030. Not some fanatical, far-left thinktank; establishment, conservative policy setters. Warning us of a monumental, unprecedented revolution in the world of work.

 

The consequence of this? The implosion of capitalism, by its own making. It doesn’t matter whether you lie on the left or right, all of us can put two and two together - see that if 50% of the population aren’t being paid, then corporate sales and revenue are going to go off a cliff-edge. Massive recession, unemployment, and poverty. That’s the logical result of this technological takeover, under the current economic system based on our ability for people to barter and buy. That capacity will be slashed.

 

So the question now is not whether we replace our corporate system, but what with? This change will affect all of us; it doesn’t matter whether we want it to not, or where on the political spectrum we lie. We’re going to have to work with it.

 

If you’re a young person today, considering a political career: get thinking. Jump the gun, forget everything going on right now, and prepare in advance. This will be the number one political challenge of our time (other than climate change). By the time our generation has taken up the reigns of power, the upheaval will be at its height.

 

Buckle up, this is gunna get intense.

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