The Speculist writes that despite the burgeoning economic recovery many jobs may not ever come back thanks to automation.
The efficiencies that can allow a company to get by with 10% fewer staff or an economy to get by with a 10% smaller employment base are many -- better management practices, longer work hours, more highly motivated or better trained staff. But the big one has got to be automation. Historically, automation boosts productivity and reduces the need for human workers. Over the past four decades, our economy has made a massive shift to a highly automated, digitized substrate. As recently as a decade and a half or so ago, economists were still scratching their heads over when the big productivity gains would emerge from this shift. Then about five or six years ago, those productivity numbers started showing up. Some of us took this to be unambiguously good news. And, in fact, I still think it's excellent news. But it may have something to say about the future of employment, and the need for our thinking around employment to change.
Phil Bowermaster goes on to talk about how our economy will have to shift to accommodate the growing mass of ex-workers who are no longer capable of contributing anything of value to an increasingly automated workforce. Today, in 2010, anyone with an IQ of 70 or higher can do something of value, but what happens as that threshold rises? As automation "IQ equivalent" increases, the number of people displaced will grow quickly until the IQ 100 median hump is surpassed. When robots can do the work of any human with an IQ of 100, how will society adapt?
One thing I can say for sure: women will be the big winners. Why? Because they can carry babies more cheaply, efficiently, and reliably that any conceivable robot. Men who are of sub-robot capability will be worthless to society, but womens ability to produce children take much longer to displace.
The effect of this is obvious: women leaving the workforce more rapidly than men and turning their energies to producing and raising children. As robots become more and more capable, the predominance of males over females at the high end of the IQ curve will lead to an ever-shrinking male-dominated aristocracy consisting of the few humans who are able to contribute something of value to an economy run by robots. It's no feminist paradise, but childbearing women will be far better off than men of sub-robot intelligence who will be unable to do anything a robot can't.