Before I share my thoughts on this awesome book, I need to say I am NO economist 🙂
Obv., my background is mainly technology, but I still loved this book and even understood the trickier bits around inflation, currencies, etc.
What's the premise of the book?
Technology is now working its way into every industry and is disrupting them faster than a fast thing from fastville.
Not only is tech replacing humans, but it's also getting cheaper, faster and more efficient every year.
Soon (5-20 years), it's quite probable that technology will disrupt/replace virtually every job that we perform today. Scary shit, huh! (Some will remain and some new roles will be invented, but the net effect is that us humans will be needed less).
The headline examples of today are:
- Autonomous vehicles: We won't even own cars in the future. We'll book a driverless car (on an app) and voila, one will be outside. It will also cost virtually nothing to go from A to B as energy is so cheap. To make your journey more enjoyable (and cheaper), I bet you'll also be shown an ad or two while sat in the "cab". (Facebook on wheels?)
- Solar Energy: This is now the cheapest energy - whoop. It's clean (once manufactured) and will give us all the energy we need to run the planet. Solar power means we don't have to dig/refine/move oil. (Solar power also has eco-impacts, but the theory is that it's cheaper and less harmful over its lifetime).
- 3D Printing (print anything you want, locally, including printing Adidas trainers from liquid ... I never knew!). If we are going to start printing either at home or "down the road",) think of all the lost jobs! You won't need as many people to manufacture, insure, transport, or move that good you just "printed out" at "Eric the 3d Printers".
- AR/VR - This tech is set to get really good. They need to solve the comfort/dizziness problem as the tech side is nearly "ready". Once this becomes mainstream (FB are building their version of Ready Player One already), we can have some cool experiences. If your brain is tricked into thinking you're sat in a pub with your mates from around the world, then why spend the money to go to the pub?
- AI - This is already taking off in a big way. The book suggests that AI is currently good at being more intelligent than us in very "narrow fields" such as beating us at the board games of Chess and Go. However, that same AI can't then beat us at cards, yet. Eventually, we will have models that can out-think us at everything. The kicker though... these models need to learn by trying something repeatedly (just like us). For this, they need data and lots of it. This is where some "resistance" may come in. E.g. Are you willing to give Apple access to every bit of your health data so it can diagnose that you've got something bad going on?
So back to the point of the book...
With all this technology replacing our jobs (for a few pence) this should naturally lead to "deflation" (paying less than we do now for the same thing). However, we still see inflation year on year. Governments are continually printing new money to put the credit back into the economies. Debt is getting higher and higher. (Covid has NOT helped either).
At some point, this colossal debt needs to be paid back in a controlled way; otherwise, we will have the 2008 crash again, but worse.
If we're also losing our jobs at the same time, this means we can't help pay the debts off (taxes) or buy stuff (transferring wealth). Plus we also need to claim benefits from the govt—double whammy.
Tax the rich?
We can tax the rich, but often they like to hide their wealth "offshore". Plus, you have to ask yourself, is it fair to tax people who've worked hard to earn a good wedge and in many cases generate thousands of jobs? (This is a contentious question, I know).
We could even try to tax the big companies, but, as we've seen, they're good at getting around the tax rules.
So the book leaves us with the big questions:
- Are we better off accepting the pain of writing off all this debt in the short term, rather than kicking the can down the road, again?
- Should we accept that today's jobs will go but rejoice in the fact that the cost of living will also get much lower?
- Are the majority of us destined for a life on universal income?
In other words, if tech is going to make it much cheaper to live our lives then are we better off letting the crash happen and making life all a bit simpler (and maybe even more chilled out)?
Anyway, as I say I am just a "beginner" when it comes to even begin to understand economies, but it's got me thinking.
I am now reading up on crypto to see if it's safe to store my spare £'s. I think another crash will come in my lifetime, and I'm not getting any younger, so it'd be good to be prepared. I also want to keep my tech skills reasonably current, "just in case".
One parting thought I couldn't help but think that the advances in technology will naturally lead to solving the climate problem. It almost feels somewhat "evolutionary"... so watch out, the planet will be saved, but the Robots are coming for us! 😜
Check this video our from Jeff himself and then go read the book!