Rifkin, a longtime social critic and leading purveyor of techno-utopianism, argues in his latest book, The Zero Marginal Cost Society that within less than 50 years, technology will have developed to the point where there will be virtually no more jobs, where the marginal cost of everything will be zero and where capitalism will cease to exist. Besides that, not much will change. These types of wild, factually inaccurate pronouncements only serve to mislead the public and hamper the legitimate policy debate.
Why Robots Don’t Kill Jobs
With U.S. job growth still anemic, some have latched onto the argument that “the robots are taking our jobs.” According to this line of thinking, high productivity driven by increasingly powerful IT-enabled machines is the cause of U.S. labor market problems, and accelerating technological change will only make things worse. The problem is this narrative is completely false. Technology and automation enhances productivity which boosts economic and job growth in the long term. We actually need more technology advancement, not less, if we hope to stay competitive in an increasingly high tech global marketplace.
Driving Innovation and Productivity
Rob Atkinson contributed an essay, "Driving Innovation and Productivity" to the UK's Policy Network's handbook of ideas titled "Making Progressive Politics Work." This compilation is aimed at advancing political debate through short policy proposals by international thought leaders. "Driving Innovation and Productivity" addresses America's fixation on short term gains over investments that would lead to greater long term gains, Europe's aversion to risk and disruptive innovation is what both the U.S. and E.U. need to do drive innovation and productivity.
The Nonsense of Techno-Exponentialism
“Techno-exponentialism,” the idea that current innovations are evolving explosively and increasing societal change as never before, has gone viral with the claim being made at every third TED talk, on the pages of mainstream publications and even on web sites of leading companies. There’s only one problem: the rate of change is not speeding up, certainly not exponentially.
Choosing A Future: "The Second Machine Age" Review
In Issues in Science and Technology, Atkinson reviews "The Second Machine Age" by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee. "The Second Machine Age" is the latest example of a wave of “innovation optimist” writing that holds that technological change is accelerating, leading to vast new innovations and profound transformation. But Atkinson argues that the evidence does not warrant such utopianism. Moreover, the authors’ continued fanning of the flames of neo-Luddite fears of wide-scale job loss from innovation not only are not borne out by history or analysis, they encourage the public and policy makers to want to slow, rather than accelerate innovation.