Gavin Kelly of the Resolution Foundation has written a very informative and balanced article in today’s Observer about technology and jobs – it’s more balanced than the headline (“The Robots Are Coming!”). He discusses the gloom about the hollowing out of good, ordinary, middle income jobs as featured in Tyler Cowen’s fascinating Average is Over and the forthcoming The Second Machine Age by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee; but also some of the reasons for not assuming we’re heading straight for the dystopia of a society divided between a minority of highly skilled, high earners and a lumpenproletariat earning minimum wage for service sector jobs the machines can’t quite do yet.
I’m in the latter camp, although not at all sanguine about the social and institutional adjustments that will need to be made as we glide into the Age of Robots. These adjustments are everything: technology drives prosperity and progress (old fashioned idea, I know), but society determines how the benefits are shared.
In the article Alan Manning (author of a book with one of the best titles ever, Monopsony in Motion) refers to ‘science fiction economics’, a marvellous concept. Blade Runner is the obvious reference for the robots-are-coming thesis, but Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net leapt to my mind as the best example. Some of William Gibson’s recent novels, of course, such as Pattern Recognition.
Any other suggestions for the best economic analysis through the medium of science fiction?