When The Chips Are Down

8 06 2014

This week’s Econtalk episode is on the future of work in an age of accelerating technological change. The guests were Andrew McAfeeMegan McArdle, and Lee Ohanian along with with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. The discussion was wide-ranging and included topics such as the idiotic US system for allocating visas to high-tech workers and changing gender roles. However, the discussion kept coming around to the issue of technological unemployment and the possibility that AI will contribute to increasing income inequality by eliminating even more routine jobs when simultaneously boosting the incomes of the 1%ers with the requisite skills.

Last week, the BBC rebroadcast a 1977 documentary called “When The Chips Are Down”. This documentary, which  was about the social impact of the computer, contains extensive scenes filmed inside Silicon Valley companies. The documentary was somewhat prophetic in its discussion of the possible impact of computers on economic inequality.  I recommend listening to the Econtalk podcast first and then watching the 1977 documentary. The really interesting stuff about the socio-economic impact of computers starts around 40 minutes in. The first half of the documentary just deals with the history of the computer– the replacement of vacuum tubes with transistors, the falling cost of computer power, etc.





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