Industrial investment at the end of the Great Recession will likely be in the new generation of robots, used in both manufacturing and distribution.
John Markoff's wide-ranging article in the New York Times is more convincing to me than the many reports claiming that a new manufacturing paradigm based on 3-D printing will emerge in the upcoming decades. Not to say those printers won't change things; but people won't be able to make highly specialized items in their basement. They will get them from distant factories and the new robots will both make them and play crucial roles in delivery. A new employment crisis will contribute to social unrest and neoliberlism can't deal with it except through repression. I think this new wave of automation, widely reporte in the last couple of years, is a key piece of the central technopolitical question: Which new machines will emerge from the "stalemate in technology"?
Markoff's article is here:
He quotes a new book entitled "Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy." Long quote below. That book can be downloaded (probably for a short time only) from this address:
You need an Epub reader for that (FBReader is in the repos of Ubuntu 12.04).
"We wrote this book because we believe that digital technologies are one of the most important driving forces in the economy today. They’re transforming the world of work and are key drivers of productivity and growth. Yet their impact on employment is not well understood, and definitely not fully appreciated. When people talk about jobs in America today, they talk about cyclicality, outsourcing and off-shoring, taxes and regulation, and the wisdom and efficacy of different kinds of stimulus. We don’t doubt the importance of all these factors. The economy is a complex, multifaceted entity.
"But there has been relatively little talk about role of acceleration of technology. It may seem paradoxical that faster progress can hurt wages and jobs for millions of people, but we argue that’s what’s been happening. As we’ll show, computers are now doing many things that used to be the domain of people only. The pace and scale of this encroachment into human skills is relatively recent and has profound economic implications. Perhaps the most important of these is that while digital progress grows the overall economic pie, it can do so while leaving some people, or even a lot of them, worse off.
"And computers (hardware, software, and networks) are only going to get more powerful and capable in the future, and have an ever-bigger impact on jobs, skills, and the economy. The root of our problems is not that we’re in a Great Recession, or a Great Stagnation, but rather that we are in the early throes of a Great Restructuring. Our technologies are racing ahead but many of our skills and organizations are lagging behind. So it’s urgent that we understand these phenomena, discuss their implications, and come up with strategies that allow human workers to race ahead with machines instead of racing against them."