Technology and the Future of Work

Jayati Ghosh

The latest fear factor to hit the world relates to the disappearance of jobs. Everywhere now the buzz is about how technology is going to transform work – and reduce it dramatically. The Davos World Economic Forum CEO Klaus Schwab (whose book The Fourth Industrial Revolution was released this week) is just the latest in a long line of recent predictors of this gloomy possibility. From 3-D printing to robots that will perform not just some basic services but even more skilled activities like those of accountancy and so on, the fear is that human labour will be increasingly displaced by machines, and so there will simply not be enough work to provide employment to all the people who need jobs.

But there is some confusion in all this doomsaying about the future (or lack of it) of work. Let’s distinguish first between two types of technological change: productive and disruptive. The first describes those changes that increase productivity and change the nature of economic activities. They certainly include increasing automation, as well as a host of new developments in biotechnology and other areas, which clearly reflect the “creative destruction” inherent in a lot of technological change.

There is little point fighting against such advance of technology or even trying to slow it down in some way, because that simply would not work and in any case is not really desirable. But that does not mean that we should be in despair simply because it would displace a lot of human work – in fact, where it replaces arduous work full of drudgery, or makes doing things more easily, we should celebrate it.

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Strong Reactions to US Cyber Spying

Martin Khor

The revelations of data collection on a massive scale by the United States’ security agencies of details of telephone calls and internet use of its citizens and foreigners are having reverberations around the world.

Much of the responses have been on the potential invasion of privacy of individuals not only in the US but anywhere in the world who use US-based internet servers.

Also revealed is a US presidential directive to security agencies to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks.

This lays the US open to charges of double standards and hypocrisy:  accusing other countries of engaging in internet snooping or hacking and cyber warfare, when it has itself established the systems to do both on a mega scale.

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India’s Patently Wise Decision

Arjun Jayadev

The Indian Supreme Court’s refusal to uphold the patent on Gleevec, the blockbuster cancer drug developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, is good news for many of those in India suffering from cancer. If other developing countries follow India’s example, it will be good news elsewhere, too: more money could be devoted to other needs, whether fighting AIDS, providing education, or making investments that enable growth and poverty reduction.

But the Indian decision also means less money for the big multinational pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly, this has led to an overwrought response from them and their lobbyists: the ruling, they allege, destroys the incentive to innovate, and thus will deal a serious blow to public health globally.

Read more at Project Syndicate

India's Patently Wise Decision

Arjun Jayadev

The Indian Supreme Court’s refusal to uphold the patent on Gleevec, the blockbuster cancer drug developed by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, is good news for many of those in India suffering from cancer. If other developing countries follow India’s example, it will be good news elsewhere, too: more money could be devoted to other needs, whether fighting AIDS, providing education, or making investments that enable growth and poverty reduction.

But the Indian decision also means less money for the big multinational pharmaceutical companies. Not surprisingly, this has led to an overwrought response from them and their lobbyists: the ruling, they allege, destroys the incentive to innovate, and thus will deal a serious blow to public health globally.

Read more at Project Syndicate

Going Off the Grid

Sunita Narain

Supply issues comprise one part of the energy conundrum, as we discussed last fortnight. The cost of energy and our ability to pay for it is the other. The matter gets vexed because the rise in price of raw material of all energy sources is accompanied by huge inefficiency in distribution and accounting. But importantly, we remain a poor country where cost of energy is a factor in its availability and accessibility for all.

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September 10, 2012 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Closed

Is Growth Still Possible?

Matias Vernengo

Paul Krugman has recently pointed out a very pessimistic, but very provocative paper by Robert Gordon, about the possibilities of long run growth. Gordon suggests that the “rapid progress made over the past 250 years could well turn out to be a unique episode in human history.” In his view, long-term stagnation is a very possible outcome. He asserts that the reasons for this are the effects of technical progress on investment.

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