Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Machines vs Routine Tasks

Brad DeLong reviews Summers on Piketty and returns to his theme.

"Think of it this way: Humans used to have five ways of creating economic value: through backs, through fingers, through routine control, through smiles, and through creative insight:

  1. Strong backs (usually those bathed in the steroid testosterone) could do the heavy lifting. 
  2. Nimble fingers could do the fine manipulating. 
  3. Cybernetic control loops could keep the lifting and manipulating on their proper tracks. 
  4. Smiles--in fact, an entire universe of human social interactions--could keep us as a group all pulling in roughly the same direction, playing positive-sum rather than negative-sum economic games, and could also provide the personal services from which we derive so much of our human well-being. 
  5. Genuine creative insight could think up new ways of doing things and new things to do that would be useful: luxurious or convenient, and over the course of time could transform conveniences into necessities, luxuries into conveniences, and invent yet new dimensions of luxury."

His thesis that backs, fingers and brains are increasingly substitutes rather than compliments for machines.  In some ways this is an evolution of routine tasks.  As machines become more sophisticated, what is defined as routine becomes increasingly broad. 

'via Blog this'

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