Friday, November 4, 2016

Elon Musk: Robots Will Take Your Jobs

Yet another Silicon Valley billionaire who doesn't understand the first thing about economics.

As more and more jobs are replaced by technology, people will have less work to do and ultimately will be sustained by payments from the government, predicts Elon Musk, reports CNBC.

"There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," says Musk to CNBC. "Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen."

As I have pointed out many times, robots are just another form of capital that are responsible for raising the general standard of living.  Until we reach the Garden of Eden, we will all have jobs. Jobs, in a robot world, that will mean more products and services availabke to  us.

We are nowhere near a situation where there is an overabundance of labor. In fact, the idea is pretty much an internal contradiction. If there wasn't any work to provide laborers with income, wouldn't they start providing  products and services to each other rather than starve to death?



  1. The fundamental fallacy behind both Socialism and Musk's "economic thinking" is the idea of intrinsic value. The fallacy is a kind of animistic superstition, that value somehow inheres in things, like a spirit and that in imputing value, people are somehow communing with this objective, inherent value-spirit and divining its magnitude or quantity.

    Musk talks about a "basic income," but this is a floating abstraction. Income for what, derived from what? From whom? Government doesn't produce anything of value, it can only transfer things of value from one party to another. From where would this income derrive, in a world where human beings do no work? Musk has no answer for this. Musk's "basic income" would theoretically be some kind of claim on things of value, but how would things be valued in the world that Musk posits? He is presuming one or more strange and erroneous things about that world. He is presuming that the problem of scarcity is solved when the cost of production is reduced to zero, but that can never be the case. Who owns the robots? He's presuming, I would think, that nobody owns the factors of production.

    Then there is the economic calculation problem. The robots are nothing more nor less than a factor of production. How are those factors valued if nobody owns them? If everyone has a "basic income," how is the value of that income derived in a world where no human produces and nobody owns any of the factors of production? Do the robots own themselves? Whence then would any human claim come on the robot production? Ownership of the robots in common (which is, in effect, a negation of the concept of ownership entirely) runs into the same calculation problem that "government ownership" causes, for precisely the same reason. There is no way to evaluate what is produced, even if we grant the magical ability of artificially intelligent machines being better able (how?) to calculate the trade offs in methods, not to mention quantities produced. The machines cannot value in the absence of human ownership and human imputation of value, which will never be a given and does not reside, intrinsically, either in capital goods and services or consumer goods and services. Musk is an idiot savant. He may be a brilliant entrepreneur, or at least, a talented "Aristocrat of Pull," as Ayn Rand might have termed him, but he knows nothing of economics.

  2. It's the seen an the unseen.

    The effects of legally defining a full time job, minimum wages, government protected high prices in many industries, government preventing entrepreneurship, higher tax rates (government consumption), and monetary policy are essentially unseen by most.

    What is seen are the robots. So the robots get the blame.

    We need sound money to enjoy the higher standard of living robots offer. In the present system most of what they offer gets sucked up to the top of the pyramid and what many people will see a lot less need for labor and no new industries or companies to take up the slack with high barriers standing in front of them to create their own businesses.

  3. Bob. I posted a comment on twitter with a similar message now I am getting some one saying they can name 4 Nobel laureate s that agree with musk. It's a certified account...I can not get your link to your previous writings to work.

  4. Robots are just tools. They are a form of automation that frees human beings from doing repetitive, error prone tasks. Just like plows gave us more abundance, and then tractors again upped the efficiency of farmers, labor will shift towards what humans do best; create value by problem solving, designing, and architecting solutions that can't be scripted. Where'd all the farmers go? They moved on to other parts of the economy that needed them. That's exactly what will happen when the robots take over.

    What about the transition from the abacus, to the calculator, to the computer? Just like Jimmy says above. It's the seen vs. the unseen. Computer software development, architecting, database modeling, UI architects, data scientists, networking engineers, system administrators, etc. Dozens upon dozens of new, high paying, specialized technology jobs that never existed before the computer.

  5. They said the same thing with the tractor...