Technological Unemployment

Sue Halpern’s How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over (New York Review of Books, April 2, 2015) provides a good update on the threat of technological unemployment. Some excerpts:

In September 2013, about a year before Nicholas Carr published The Glass Cage: Automation and Us, his chastening meditation on the human future, a pair of Oxford researchers issued a report predicting that nearly half of all jobs in the United States could be lost to machines within the next twenty years.

The term for what happens when human workers are replaced by machines was coined by John Maynard Keynes in 1930 in the essay “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren.” He called it “technological unemployment.”

Machine efficiency was becoming so great that President Roosevelt, in 1935, told the nation that the economy might never be able to reabsorb all the workers who were being displaced.

As Paul Krugman wrote a couple of years ago in The New York Times:
Smart machines may make higher GDP possible, but they will also reduce the demand for people—including smart people. So we could be looking at a society that grows ever richer, but in which all the gains in wealth accrue to whoever owns the robots.

In the United States, real wages have been stagnant for the past four decades, while corporate profits have soared.