Sequential Changes In The Economy With Automation

As we move toward an economy in which more and more of the jobs have been lost to automation, many new jobs are still being created. On average, however, many of those new jobs will require higher level training. Still, many jobs that require only modest training will be retained. Yet, many other jobs will be permanently lost but more gradually. Many who lose those jobs will find others, but increasingly they will pay less and less regardless of level of training required to fill them. Many other new jobs may be created, but for most will also be lower paying. It is hard to imagine from the current vantage point that all jobs lost to automation will be made up with new ones. This may have been generally true in the past, but since the rate of automation is increasing we can hardly expect to keep pace with new jobs.

Gradually, we may develop a more extreme range of have and have nots — more extreme than the one we have now. The cost of manufactured goods will be lowered in an attempt to make them more accessible to the many workers with low wages. The lower end the economy will develop many more changes than we will see at the top, although we will see a few at the top. Expect us, for example, to lose some highly paid technical professionals — radiologists may be one example. The readings of films and computer representations provided by trained radiologists, could, in principle, be taken over by smart robotics devices.

At the lower end of the scale displaced groups of workers may band together to create totally different types of enconomies. Some within a group may have jobs while others will not. But everyone within the group will work or contribute in some way. Such communes will likely grow some or most of their own food, insulate their own shelters, establish heating and cooling systems in them, and perhaps create sufficient solar systems to create enough electrical energy to stay off the main grid. They will need sufficient water to bathe, drink and to cook. They will get that water in a variety of ways.

Internally the group may develop different rules from the remainder of the society, but we may see major differences from grouo to group. Some may keep a system of credits equivalent to their own currency system. But these groups will still need some funds to allow them to buy some items they are not able to build or fashion somehow for themselves. Thus, some members of the group are likely to have jobs and earn a wage even though they may not be completely self-sustaining and as self-reliant on their own.

We have many such groups based on such micro-economies now, but in the future we are likely to have many more. For those whose situation is not as dire, there will still be a need to conserve, to perhaps grow food, and do many kinds of labors for themselves or for others to earn some additional funds to make it. Those who are at the upper end of the new economy may adjust prices of the goods they sell. This may have the effet of creating a safety net for those at the bottom.

What seems certain is that the numbers living at the margins will increase substantially. Many will thrive in the new microeconomy into which they have been thrust. Others will have a hard time adjusting. What seems certain is that what we will see will not be the kind of social experimentation seen in the 1960s and 1970s. Rather we will see large numbers of people making an economic adjustment out of necessity.


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