Jobs and the machine

As long ago as 1984, in his Paths to Paradise, André Gorz, a self-proclaimed “revolutionary-reformist” stated, baldly, that the “micro-economic revolution heralds the abolition of work”. He even argued that “waged work . . . may cease to be a central preoccupation by the end of the century”. His timing was wrong. But serious analysts think he was directionally right. So what might a world of intelligent machines mean for humanity? Will human beings become as economically irrelevant as horses? If so, what will happen to our individual self-worth and the organisation of our societies?

Read this article from Martin Wolf

Innovations and Employment – Part II

This is the English version of my weekly column for Forbes.
The original French version is here

This time is differentThis is often how the impact of innovation on the economy and jobs is perceived. Should we banish the broadly deterministic analysis I made in my last column (available here) or is this still the right approach? In other words, are innovation and employment complementary when all is said and done (this is the lesson that history teaches us according to Alfred Sauvy, and Paul Krugman’s model suggests the same interpretation), or is there a danger that the impact of innovation will be negative for jobs in the long term?

The “this time is different” theory does not work in a number of situations and so we need to remain cautious on this type of reasoning. Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff wrote a remarkable book on the application of this notion to the financial crisis (“This time is different – Eight centuries of financial folly” Princeton University Press 2009). They suggest that during the various financial crises, “this time” is never really different even if spectators get caught up in the moment and view each crisis as a historical turning point at the time. Continue reading

Innovation and Employment – Part I

This is my weekly column on
It is available in French here

Here is the English version

The issue of robots and employment emerged recently during the French election campaign, with presidential candidate Benoît Hamon discussing two aspects of this matter at great length. The first aspect is job shortages caused by robotization of the economy: the result of this shift is to make basic universal income a necessity to offset the impact of these shortages on French citizens’ income. The second area involves taxing robots in order to finance the social model as well as education. I will look into these issues in detail in three successive columns. The first will deal with the traditional relationship between innovation and employment, the second will focus on the introduction of artificial intelligence and the third will discuss the issue of taxing robots and explore the key question of who owns these machines. 

The focal question here is employment and the effects of a more robot-based workforce on jobs. The taxation of robots is also key, as the various interpretations of this policy can have diametrically opposing effects. Continue reading