Advancement of Technology and Unemployment
Written by Greg Allen   
Sunday, 04 May 2008

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
 No.10  Engineer
Yes Capitalisam will not work once a model hits a saturation level. Growing is how it stays alive, and it will be it's demise. In part, because it has always had the view to every downturn that the answer is to 'grow more'. Gene envisioned a world that had, in some manner, moved past greed. Till said time BP, shell, mobil, chevron have no intent on ever letting that happen.
Paul Inman (Unregistered) • 2008-06-06 13:24:12
 No.11  Engineer
Sadly, these arguments are very silly... "what if we had an infinite energy source and could fly our homes around?" Do you know how stupid you sound? Well, what if we all discovered we were God or were all strong like Superman? That's assinine. What if we had an infinite energy source AND were strong as Superman AND as God, decided to move the planet to a better neighborhood?

So what IF a faster-than-light space craft were available? Do you think you'd have one just because it was available? Where is your Maserati? Where is your super-model girlfriend who is actually also a secret agent ninja?

Do you think that manufacturers would give away the mavelous machines that you thought up? Would farmers buy them and give the food that they grow -- after all, it's completely computerized and electrically mechignized, right? And people would build a house for you, for free, on the land that someone gave you for free. You're a little child. You think that everything should just be yours, just because you exist.

Capitalism has a few good years left, before the leftists take over and drive us all into the grave or chains. The world that "Gene envisioned" was a science-fiction fantasy. I can envision a world that had flying pink ponies, but that doesn't mean that it will happen, and it doesn't mean that it would be good even if it did. Can you imagine having a flying pink pony crap on your head?

Guys, grow up.

If you think that BP, Shell, Mobil, and Chevron are evil and "keeping you down", then throw off your chains. You aren't slaves except in your minds.

Do you not want to have to work? Go on the dole. I am sure that plenty of people would be willing to support you. Then THEY will get jealous and they will quit also, to let even fewer support you both. Eventually, you can all starve to death -- or you can complain that everybody should be giving away free food grown by ninja aliens using their faster-than-light flying homes. Geeze, you are so stupid that you have ME spinning. I think I'm losing IQ points just corresponding with you.

You must all be idiots, fools, or insane.
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-06-09 20:03:20
 No.12  Engineer
Sorry... tan out of room before the best part:

OK, the low down: The missionary was evil. If he hadn't brought the net, the islanders would have had fulfilling lives and lived happily every after just working the way they did. Instead, an external force (alien?) brought new technology and put 80% out of work... what's there to do? "Well, if you put a new roof on my hut, I'll share fish with you." "Why the hell should YOU have the net, ya cheeky bastard! Help, help! I'm being repressed! This bugger is a capitalist! He wants to enslave me! HE wants me to WORK for him! He should just GIVE me the fish. Death to the tyrants!" "Henry, sit down."

OK, now, 80% are dependent upon the 20%. The 20% can force them to live any way they want. "Give me your wife!" "Give me your daughter!" "Oooo... what a cute boy!" (ugh).

"That's it, I'm taking my non-existant flying home and I'm going to the mainland, where I will be a penniless entrepreneur!" "What will you do there?" "Starve... nobody needs me there, either."

"Yo! If you blighters want anything to eat, you had better me with useful services! After all, *I* control the nets... well, w/ George there. Listen. We're all in this together... tell ya wot we'll do. YOU do all the work, and we'll take 80% of the harvest. There, now we're property owners and control the means to production. Hey! Those are OUR equipment ya bastards! WE own 'em! No, you can't unionize! We'll cut your food off!"

Mean while, in a complete different universe, "Captain, there seems to be some activity on that island." "Ah, Spock, let's beam down. Maybe the islanders have beautiful daughters that we can romance while telling them of the fictional Utopia from whence we hie." "Scotty, beam us down... " [Bzerblblble.]

"Spock, these islanders are fighting amongst themselves! Those two control all of the fish, and the others want to be fed. Set phasors on stun. No, on second thought, Kill them all."

"But Captain, we are forbidden from affecting alien society."
"Ah, I see your point, Spock. We should kill the missionary, and burn down the huts of the two that own the nets, thus, returning the villagers to their pastoral squalor."
"That's perfectly logical, Captain."
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-06-09 20:06:04
 No.13  Untitled
There is a problem with your assertion "OK, now, 80% are dependent upon the 20%. The 20% can force them to live any way they want."

80% ARE NOT dependent on the 20% who fish with the net since they can always go fishing themselves. Because 80% can sustain themselves, albeit not as effective and productive as the other 20%, they cannot be enslaved.
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-06-26 17:46:31
 No.14  What unemployment problem?
What unemployment problem?

According to the "story" a missionary brings new tech. to the islanders. The islanders are not unemployed but figure that they can do other things (besides fish). The big guy wants to be security (for the women and children). The dumb lazy guy will become a politician. The others just want to help with the bigger catch (processing & distribution) that comes in. One guy though wants to learn the technology (making & fixing nets) so he will be needed (payed) more. One person wants to work with the missionary and will build statue's for him of him. Life will be good for a while, the women will be able to have more children (food surplus) and the island will prosper.

The island now has entered the age of specialization...

In 400 hundred years the trees will all be gone (boat building, fires, houses) and all the 10,000 people will die - from the breakdown of society. The fact that they cannot fish without boats will cost them dearly.

This story is true - go to Discover (magazine) and search for Easter Island.
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-07-08 10:29:45
 No.15  Re: Engineer
well the real story is that 7 people start manufacturing items to sell to each other the last employs slave labor from a distant island at 5% the cost an sells to the others, at 90% of what the locals charge who consumes them selves out of a job.but its k since they cant afford to buy American t keep the islanders (them selves) empolyed
Guest (Unregistered) • 2008-10-10 22:40:08
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