Can Technology Creates More Problems Than It Solved?

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Each new generation brings the reemergence of many of the fears of the past, requiring the repetition of old explanations to put them to rest. Today there is a renewed concern that technological advancement may displace much of the manufacturing (and other) work force, creating widespread unemployment, social disruption, and human hardship. For example, in 1983 the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research forecast the existence of 50,000 to 100,000 industrial robots in the United States by 1990, resulting in a net loss of some 100,000 jobs.[1] Barry Bluestone, perhaps foremost among today's gloomy economists, is also worried about the future. He argues that "capital hypermobility" requires that America "reestablish the social safety net and extend the range of the regulatory system to make that net even more secure."[2] Harvard's Robert Reich completes the theme that government must act by arguing that America's industrial policy "is the by-product of individual corporate strategies whose goals may have little to do with enhancing the standard of living of Americans." He further states that our current industrial policy creates jobs that are "lower-skilled and routine, eventually to be replaced by robots and computers."[3] What are we to make of all these claims and predictions and the rhetoric that surrounds them? Conservative economic thinkers tend to disparage persons who fear the rapid advance of technology by labeling them "Luddites."[4] This term is both unfair and inaccurate. The real Luddites, of the early 1800s, were uneducated working people who destroyed textile machinery and other symbols of advancing technology, which, despite their efforts, were to move the broad spectrum of humanity above the subsistence level for the first time. Today's proponents of economic activism are typically not of the working class and are usually quite well educated. Nobel laureate Wassily Leontief, who gave the keynote speech for the National Academy of Engineering at...
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