Vivek Wadhwa's Washington Post op-ed piece, "We’re heading into a jobless future, no matter what the government does", has gotten a lot of pick up on the Internet. Wadhwa is a professor at Stanford with a distinguished academic career. The article basically discusses the dramatic decline in employment opportunities due to technologies such as AI, automation and robots. I particularly like the joke about a factory:
“The factory of the future will have only two employees, a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog. The dog will be there to keep the man from touching the equipment.” Carl Bass, CEO Autodesk
Wadhwa makes a more serious point when he discusses the role of government in addressing the lack of future jobs. In the industrial age government could manage policy to create enough work for people to provide for their families and maintain self-respect. Wadhwa believes that government can no longer manage policy to create sufficient jobs. The current efficiency of production and the expected increase in productivity will result in government policy being ineffective to create new jobs faster than existing jobs are eliminated.
If Wadhwa is correct, which I think he is, then what is the role of government. If government cannot manage the economy to satisfy individual economic needs then what role is left for government. This is perhaps the bigger question raised by Wadhwa. Why do we need a government with 2.7 million government employees, excluding the military, if the government cannot satisfy the most fundamental economic well being of people. Maybe government should be re-thought.
Of course, many, including Hayek and Wadhwa, have said that government cannot manage complex problems. Doubtful government will redefine its role and equally unlikely government will develop economic policies that counterbalance the natural job loss from new technologies.
Image credit: http://markingourterritory.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/my-favorite-quotations-about-dogs/