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Advancement of Technology and Unemployment PDF Print E-mail
Written by Greg Allen   
Sunday, 04 May 2008
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Advancement of Technology and Unemployment
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I was on a flight recently and I was reading a book by famed economist Paul Zane Pilzer.  His books are really good because he makes you think a little differently.


I was reading his thoughts of unemployment due to the advancement of technology.  Since this is an election year, I am hearing the politicians talking back and forth on what policies they would put in place.  Pilzer writes that only unemployment from a move to newer technology can create new jobs and grow the whole economy for everyone.Fishing net


He uses an example of 10 families on a desert island. Everyday the 10 men go fishing as the 10 women stay home with the children and tend to the huts.  They live an ok life for years.. until one day a missionary shows up with a new and better technology for fishing: a net. Now they can catch the same number of fish with only 2 people (one to steer the boat and one to cast the net).


Now there is a problem on the island:  80% unemployment.   Eight people are out of jobs due to new technology....


Should they pass laws outlawing nets?  (that is exactly what happens now)  or should they tax the two workers and give their earnings to the unemployed?  That is what most of the world did in the early 20th century.


What could the people on the island do instead?  The unemployed could create new jobs that will add to the community. One could learn medicine and help the health of the others… one liked teaching and decided to teach the children… one could learn to build better huts.. etc. Their jobs of doctor, builder and teacher didn’t exist before the unemployment from better technology. 


I think that Toyota saw the curve and started making hybrid electric vehicles while other car manufactures kept building the energy inefficient gas guzzling vehicles.  When I see less people buying certain cars from certain manufactures as well as layoffs, it makes me wonder if this is an example of what Paul Zane Pilzer is talking about? Is this a good example of unemployment due to the advancement of technology?


I am not really sure... very interesting prespective.



The Next Millionaires by Paul Zane Pilzer


Electric Vehicles

Readers have left 15 comments.
 No.1  Untitled
For years we've been speeding toward an end of work - as factories become automated, computers replace accountants and drafters, self-checkout replaces grocery checkers - yet we're still somehow near full employment. I strongly agree with the reasoning described above, as long as we're part of a growing economy.

I'm not quite sure what happens to this model once we decide to start consuming less. I have a feeling we'll soon find out.
Matt the Engineer (Unregistered) • 2008-05-05 11:29:00
 No.2  Untitled
How about the 2 guys start to process excess fish for fish oil. Another 2 start to fish also but they start to supply neighboring island and coastal regions with fish and buying hides and other livestock related products in return. Another person can earn a living by covering their modest huts using hide and other products in exchange for fish that he can in return sell for goods. An this cycle can go on and on until there are skyscrapers on that island and morons like you are working as cheap labor for them. Go tell that to that idiot "Paul Zane Pilzer"
Free Market!! (Unregistered) • 2008-05-09 22:50:59
 No.3  Paul Zane Pilzer
Pilzer was the youngest VP of Citibank and work for several president.
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-05-10 10:44:04
 No.4  Untitled
This is just what happened when people turned from hunter/gatherers into farmers. Not only did their standard of living rise but they had time for art and music as well. people specialised in what they did best.
We need really GOOD education systems to do a similar thing in the 21st century.
There are people who think we should just all stay fishing but in truth the fact is that mankind cannot just stand still.
Roger Strong (Unregistered) • 2008-05-16 01:33:41
 No.5  Sr. Designer
All these comment make good points. The key concept is that the ten people are on a island, thus the expansion to other islands is not in the analogy. There would not be unemployment because the other would find other things to do that others would percieve as value added, like the arts or leaders.
In our seemingly complicated world technology and effiency have indeed been behind all our improvements in quality of life. However technology is also used to pollute and harm but this is all about our demons. We will evolve towards a demand based society that will consume much less and discourage waste and hoarding (wealth) behaviors.
Rich Rosenthal (Unregistered) • 2008-05-30 09:32:28
 No.6  Engineer
In part I agree with Rich. But I think it can be expressed in simple terms. "Greed" trumps sound managment every time.
Change it to..... two men fish for the needs of the community without over fishing. The men take shifts of one week each at the job. The rest enjoy their families without the need or feeling the need to extract more from their world.

Go build a park.
paul Inman (Unregistered) • 2008-06-03 06:34:17
 No.7  Untitled
Better education for the next century is not an answer. Thinking so is a symptom. You only increase the ratio of very dumb smart people to very lazy dumb poeple. We aready have health care that we cannot afford.
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-06-03 07:06:04
 No.8  not true
This very argument was started 30+ years ago, about computerisation. (and probably during the industrial rev.) A recent study showed that the increase in technology actually increases employment. as was demonstrated over that 30 year period. in the same time that we automated many tasks due to computerisation a significant number of people entered the workforce ie: woman. yet our unemployment rate in Australia is lower than it ever was.

So the facts deny the speculation. But there will always be doomsayers. that has always been proven over thousands of years of human history
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-06-04 18:21:57
 No.9  Engineer
People, worry over an economy is of course a capitalistic view. If field propulsion powered by a self sustaining generator made possible a flying craft beyond the speed of light made itself a commonplace in a second world country and then others, it would eventually find its way here in the U.S. which would mean that the production and distribution of energy would be completely wiped out within 10 years or so. This then means that all farming would become completely computerized and electrically mechignized to the point that most crops would cost so little that produce would be esentially free. A person's flying craft would replace his house, his vehicle and his summer cabin since with field propulsion living in NewYork and working in San Diego would be but a 10 minut commute in a vessel that acts as vehicle and house. Now we see the collapse of the realestate market, the energy market, the auto manufacturers market, the farmers market, battle ships and submarines and aircraft would all be replaced by this single craft type and so on with the introduction of this single technology. This then would lead to a 50% unemployment rate in the U.S.. Now what? Have any of you ever realized that capitalism is becoming an old out dated concept that breeds greed and suppresses technology especially in the medical field. Why cling to this very inefficient system. We don't need to be socialists or communists just because we let capitalism go. Star Trek the next generation is a system not based on revenue but technology, trade and information. Gene Rodenbury had a good idea there and it is ultimately where we are headed. The sooner the better.
VonBraun (Unregistered) • 2008-06-04 22:40:53

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