One way to address the impasse of the present global political economy may be to embrace the possibility of creating a labour-intensive, semi-autonomous livelihood through farming, homesteading or gardening largely on one’s own account, within a wider society which is collectively oriented to enabling people to live that way.
This is the basic argument of a book I have been lost in for the last 10 days: The Technology Trap, by the Swedish-German economist and historian Carl Benedikt Frey. His basic thesis is that this phase of the 21st century is turning out to be very like the early 19th, in the sense that technology is causing a great crisis of status, security and trust in institutions.
At a recent industry conference, Terry Spencer, head of natural gas infrastructure company ONEOK, made clear the direction the fracking industry was headed: “One of these days one of these big ol’ fracs will be operated with nobody there.”
There are two stories commonly told about robots these days. One is that, in the not-too-distant future, some enormous percentage of jobs currently being done by people will be taken over by computers, and the workers will be left twiddling their thumbs. The other is that, like past periods of technological change, job markets will simply evolve, and new, better things will arise for us to do. The truth is neither – and everything in between.
Sometimes you read a book that helps to crystalize your thinking, not because you agree with it, but because you don’t.
A banker in 1716 had two main tools: a ledger book and a quill pen.