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Drudge or Producer?

Of all imaginary crises to worry about, the spectre of automation is among the most fashionable and enduring, since the times of Ned Ludd.
 
“About 35 percent of China’s labor force is in agriculture (compared to 2.5 percent in the U.S.). There are 425 million agricultural workers (200 million farming households) in China. A little over a decade ago China was home to 700 million farmers. They made up about 60 percent of the population.” (source)
 
In short, China has “lost” 275 million agricultural jobs. Alternatively, some other sectors gained 275 million workers. Is this a good or bad thing? By all accounts, food production is up. People have been freed to do other productive things. People in China are living better, along some metrics, than before. Sure, pollution has increased; but they’re working on that problem too.

Some of us remember when typewriters and secretaries were ubiquitous in every office. They have been replaced with computers, empowering each of us to type our own emails, to gather information, to create reports, and so forth. We’ve become more productive, and now have entire job categories which were previously unimaginable.

Robotics increases our productivity; it enables us to create more of everything which we value.
Increased productivity is not an evil to be avoided, unless we value drudgery for its own sake.

Drudge or Producer?

Of all imaginary crises to worry about, the spectre of automation is among the most fashionable and enduring, since the times of Ned Ludd.
 
“About 35 percent of China’s labor force is in agriculture (compared to 2.5 percent in the U.S.). There are 425 million agricultural workers (200 million farming households) in China. A little over a decade ago China was home to 700 million farmers. They made up about 60 percent of the population.” (source)
 
In short, China has “lost” 275 million agricultural jobs. Alternatively, some other sectors gained 275 million workers. Is this a good or bad thing? By all accounts, food production is up. People have been freed to do other productive things. People in China are living better, along some metrics, than before. Sure, pollution has increased; but they’re working on that problem too.

Some of us remember when typewriters and secretaries were ubiquitous in every office. They have been replaced with computers, empowering each of us to type our own emails, to gather information, to create reports, and so forth. We’ve become more productive, and now have entire job categories which were previously unimaginable.

Robotics increases our productivity; it enables us to create more of everything which we value.
Increased productivity is not an evil to be avoided, unless we value drudgery for its own sake.

Worse Than Fake News

What’s worse than fake news? The news that you don’t see. Remember the “memory hole” in the novel 1984? We suffer from a kind of “news blackout” which heavily influences what we think we know. Many of us also, because of our own choices, see a very limited slice of the news which is available.

For example, if you weren’t searching for it, you probably don’t know that China sent a man into space in 2003, and has a very impressive space program. If you don’t follow the Top 500 Supercomputer listings, you probably don’t know that the fastest computer in the world is the Chinese Sunway TaihuLight, which supplanted the Chinese Tianhe-2 from the top of the heap.

If you’re American, it’s possible that you think America will always be at the top of the world. But China’s GDP moved recently to the number 2 spot, just behind America. Projections suggest China will have the number one slot in just four or five years. Or perhaps as soon as 2018.

India is also rising. Each of these countries has over one billion people, and has been rapidly growing for some decades. They’re changing so rapidly that few can keep up – and our usual news sources pay little attention to these trends.

How did China and India change so fast? Both liberalized their economies, allowing private-sector entrepreneurship to flourish. China started this process in 1978; India in 1990. Both have experienced rapid growth since. By the rule of 72, 7% annual growth leads to a doubling in about ten years and another doubling, a four-fold increase, in 20 years. The American economy – snarled in red tape – grows much more slowly. Ironic, isn’t it?