- The economist had two interesting pieces: We, robot and How productive are robots? The first argues that distributed knowledge, or the so-called extended mind of the cloud is going to fuel further automation. The second compares the productivity of robots across countries. Ryan Avent concludes with the paragraph:
There is another possibility, however, which is simply that robots are straightforward substitutes for labour, not complements. Robots are labour-augmenting in the sense that fewer workers are required to produce a given level of output, but not in the direct sense that might allow for roboticisation to generate higher wages. Robots generate more income for the owners of the firm's capital, and unless there is an institutional structure in place to compel the owners to share those gains (as in some European economies) the income benefits of higher productivity escape workers entirely. Maybe.
- In a related vein J Bradford DeLong writes in a Project Syndicate piece that Marx was wrong about capital and labour being substitutes, but that may not be the case today: Marx and the mechanical Turk.
Finally, if you wonder whether a developmental state can something about unemployment, poverty and inequality in South Africa, read Philippe Burger's new ECON3x3 post, drawing on his Presidential Address at last year's ESSA meeting.