We saw this article today, and in the same reading session we noted that interest rates are almost sure to increase in 2017 and the impact of that depends a lot on whether personal income increases apace. Sort of iffy, don’t you think?
Partly from a newsletter Quartz | 675 Avenue of the Americas, 4th Fl | New York, NY 10011 | United States, authored by Michael Coren:
This week we learned the future will be an automated utopia. Amazon announced its first grocery store will open in Seattle, Washington, but it’s not like any grocery you’ve seen. Cashiers need not apply; customers pull food off the shelves, walk out, and pay automatically through a smartphone app called Amazon Go. Truckers, too, will likely see their jobs disappear before long. Many have put the arrival of autonomous commercial trucks at 40 years off. “Three years, at most,” countered one Silicon Valley investor.
The working and middle classes of Europe and North America are already reeling, as globalization hollows out much of the industrial heartland of the world’s rich countries. Now automation technology seems ready to finish off the job. Millions of jobs are on the chopping block—most paying less than $20 per hour. Meanwhile, politicians’ neglect of the working and middle classes’ economic security makes the electoral shocks that followed—Brexit, Trump, Renzi—seem almost inevitable. The stability of these democracies will hinge on how well the economy works for these citizens.
It wasn’t long ago that automation promised an economic paradise. “For the first time since his creation,” wrote economist Maynard Keynes in a 1930 essay, “man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure.” That, of course, assumes a big share of machine-generated wealth reaches workers. So far, that hasn’t happened.
History may be instructive. The last time American capitalism faltered, Franklin D. Roosevelt rode to power on the strength of his “New Deal” in 1932. Does a comparable political platform exist to rally Americans discarded by their own economy? Proposals are already being floated: A “GI Bill” to educate workers displaced by automation. A universal basic income to give workers the right to economic security. Companies paying for workers’ vocational training, with the help of government incentives (Germany already does this).
Instead, America might get Trump’s answer: a mix of deregulation for big business and steep tariffs. That has populist appeal, but economists warn it also risks tipping the US into recession—not righting the ship.—Michael Coren
By the way, to even the score, here’s part of an article from a 1937 concept called Keedoozle:
“In an effort to turn grocery shopping into an arcade game, in 1937, Clarence Saunders developed the concept for a fully automated grocery store in Memphis. The new store was called Keedoozle, as in “key does all,” because each customer received a key to use while shopping. The items (mostly dry and canned goods) were behind glass displays, and shoppers put in their key and selected the quantity they wanted. The key was then brought to the front, where the food was delivered via conveyor belt and the bill was added up.
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