Envisioning a Robot Economy

What would a robot economy feel like? This is, I admit, not a question I have spent much time thinking about. Off the top of my head...

Robots are good workers, and they'll make a lot of stuff cheaply and quickly. Robots also require lower than average compensation because they have simple mechanical needs (no knee surgery, McMansions, or escargot for this crowd). As a result, the size of the economy would dramatically increase, while at the same time cheap robots doing formerly expensive work cheaply would bring down wages in industries where they had a competitive advantage, and probably eliminate thousands of jobs. This might result in an unstable labor force with high spikes of unemployment combined with hyperactive productivity. An insecure middle class with limited ability to buy the things the robot class produces would bring down the cost of the robot-produced stuff. You might see price depreciation throughout the economy -- good news for those with access to wealth, but bad news for those without.

I have no idea if that makes sense! But I get the idea that Karl Smith is thinking with sophistication than I...

What is clear is that the real price of natural resources will skyrocket. In theory this could happen because prices of most goods are falling at a tremendous rate while the price of land and materials holds. I don't think this could happen for monetary reasons. Piecing together optimal monetary policy in the singularity is a side project of mine and though it sounds silly possibly very important.

So your house, for example, might still be worth 250K dollars but within a few years the cost of deconstructing your existing house and building a new house from the parts might be 500 dollars and could be done by several thousand robots in an afternoon. As you can see in a world of such cheap service the actual cost of materials becomes a huge consideration. Building an entirely new house and on new land is radically different proposition than reconstructing an existing house.

This is why everyone who owns something besides their own labor power would likely become very rich, very fast in the robot future.

Read the full story at Modeled Behavior.

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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