Will Robots Terminate the U.S. Middle Class?

November 8, 2013

Will robots terminate the U.S. middle class? Jim Pethokoukis of AEI interviews George Mason’s Tyler Cowen for the answer. Here’s a preview: 

Right now, we’re – you know – we’re maybe barely at the point of where man plus computer is better at chess than just computer.  But that’s expected to flip very, very soon if it hasn’t already, if you look at the performance of the very best computers on the very best hardware. … I think the distant future vision is really quite utopian, even though I think the next 20 years or more will have some pretty tough transitions.

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America’s regulatory burden has worsened over the past 7 years, dropping our standing from 23rd to 80th in the world according to the World Economic Forum.

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North America’s trade is anchored in its cities, according to data collected by The Brookings Institution. Trade within the continent accounts for 28.9% of all the United States’ global trade, totaling some $884.78 billion. Of that total, 58% came from trade between metropolitan areas, a significant portion of which consisted of goods produced by advanced industries, such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals.

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Here’s Gary Schilling in BloombergView on the future of manufacturing:

The majority of what could be rapid growth in U.S. manufacturing will probably come from capital-intensive, robotics-intensive production that doesn’t require many people. Those employed in this area will need considerable skills. Furthermore, these are the industries that show rapid productivity growth as new technologies are introduced. But when productivity growth is robust, output will rise substantially without much increase in employment.

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The Atlantic Cities features a profile of the top cities “where Millennials can make it now.” It’s not as rigorous of an examination as I would have liked, but the author’s right to emphasize that opportunity for young people today can often be found in some surprising places.

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The Economist has a compelling chart on the regional differences on how people view their privacy. It turns out that Americans are much more likely to view their location, purchases, and website visits as being private than those in China do—in fact, at a ratio of at least 2:1.