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Robotics Technology

Krugman: Is the Computer Revolution Coming To a Close? 540

ninguna writes "According to Paul Krugman: 'Gordon argues, rightly in my view, that we've really had three industrial revolutions so far, each based on a different cluster of technologies. The analysis in Gordon's paper links periods of slow and rapid growth to the timing of the three industrial revolutions:
IR #1 (steam, railroads) from 1750 to 1830.
IR #2 (electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals, petroleum) from 1870 to 1900.
IR #3 (computers, the web, mobile phones) from 1960 to present.
What Gordon then does is suggest that IR #3 has already mostly run its course, that all our mobile devices and all that are new and fun but not that fundamental. It's good to have someone questioning the tech euphoria; but I've been looking into technology issues a lot lately, and I'm pretty sure he's wrong, that the IT revolution has only begun to have its impact.' Is Krugman right, will robots put laborers and even the educated out of work?"
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Krugman: Is the Computer Revolution Coming To a Close?

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  • by Zimluura ( 2543412 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:09PM (#42399631)


  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:15PM (#42399707)

    Look, that was maybe good for a chuckle the first time somebody pointed it out. But that was a long time ago. You don't need to trumpet this crap each time a headline contains a question mark. Just answer the question, without throwing out the too-obvious "Betteridge's law" reference. It's almost getting as bad as the stupid "obligatory XKCD" links that dipshits will post here.

  • Re:Paul Krugman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Intrepid imaginaut ( 1970940 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:16PM (#42399735)

    Are you saying the Nobels aren't political? I've nothing against Obama but awarding him the peace prize before he'd even done anything was a very clear political statement.

  • Re:Paul Krugman (Score:2, Insightful)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <`dadinportland' `at' `'> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:22PM (#42399803) Homepage Journal

    What you mea is what he says to jive with your political view. Otherwis why would you hate somene who has been pretty much correct? Read his blog starting in 98.
    What we ahve is an expert that gets demonized because loud mother poundits with wide audiences don't like what he says, even though nhis track records is excellent.

    That is what matters. Not you , or my, political views. If you, or I, or anyone, don't change are views when new and accurate data come sin, then we might as well start living in the dark ages.

    Sorry, but when someone applies an economic theory to a situation to forecast an outcome, and the outcome is pretty much correct, then that person is probably correct. YOU need to change your perspective.

    We see this a lot more now then ever. The republican echo machine gets turned up louder and louder every time someone can show that a social policy works. Look at the 2012 election. The statistic from actual experts all showed it wasn't going to really be a close race. And when the actual experts where correct, all the people who were loud to be heard, but not actual experts, were stunned. Did they say 'maybe I was wrong?' no. The turned up their echo chamber even louder letting the same experts make all kinds of stupid reason why they where wrong, how it wasn't there fault, and the republican media just agreed.

    tT's a fucking disgrace. You are better then that, please apply rational and critical thinking.

  • by FreeUser ( 11483 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:25PM (#42399835)

    Are you saying the Nobels aren't political? I've nothing against Obama but awarding him the peace prize before he'd even done anything was a very clear political statement.

    While I agree that awarding President Obama the Nobel peace prize before he had been in office long enough to accomplish anything was a bit emberrassing (for all parties, I suspect), that has nothing to do with what he was saying. He was saying in effect, that some right-wing wingnut with "socialism is slavery" as their signature line dismissing Paul Krugman as a political hack and only an economist as a 'distant second' is misinformation at best, and given the track record of the American right in recent years, probably closer to an outright lie. Krugman may be politically active, but having won the nobel prize for economics, he is most certainly an economist of note, whose opinions are worth considering whether or not we personally agree with them.

    And by the way, as one who lived many years in countries with socialized medicine, as well as in the United States, I would say the system in America, where your health is tied directly to your employment status, is much closer to slavery than any of western European "socialist" systems, but I digress.

  • by Raven42rac ( 448205 ) * on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:28PM (#42399859)
    Well it's a lazy journalistic crutch and needs to be mocked at every opportunity.
  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by linatux ( 63153 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:31PM (#42399883)

    I think our algorithms have sucked, but it hasn't mattered much until recently.
    Now we are able to make vast amounts of data available easily, so it matters a lot more.

    Processing power still has a long way to go, but figuring out HOW to make use of the data is currently more important than the speed at which we can do it.

  • Re:Not really (Score:5, Insightful)

    by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <> on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:36PM (#42399923) Homepage

    It's not clear that software is heating up as much as you propose. Most systems depend on vast foundation libraries, and commercial viability frequently depends on vast developer ecosystems. It is getting harder and harder over time to launch novel software stacks. As new computer programs depend on ever larger and more stable platforms, inertia naturally means that the rate of "real" change is less now than it was earlier in the evolution of computer programs.

    I think it's perfectly fair to say that the computer revolution is slowing down. Even as people remain hard at work, and some metrics continue to climb as fast as ever, the different between a 16 KB home computer and a 16 MB home computer is extraordinary. The difference between a 16 MB system and a 16 GB system is really much smaller, even though the systems are separated by a factor of 1000x (for the sake of a simple argument, assume compute performance and storage capacity scale at a rate roughly equal to main memory.) A 16 MB 686 running Windows 95 has windows, icons, color graphics, a mouse. A 16 GB Sandy Bridge running Windows 7 has windows, icons, color graphics, a mouse. A user teleported some years in the future would have no problem accepting the faster system. A 16 KB system has a keyboard, text mode, built in BASIC, incredibly primitive graphics with limited colors. Moving from that to the 16 MB one would be a revelation.

    We've seen massive consolidation of operating systems since the 80's. IT at this point is relatively stable and mature. Though, I don't agree that there were several completely distinct revolutions. I would argue that Facebook is part of the same revolution as the telegraph and radio. Likewise, computers are largely a technology of reliable small scale finely detailed manufacturing which started quite some time ago.

  • Re:Paul Krugman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:47PM (#42399997) Homepage

    who misuses his column to push his own political agenda.

    He writes a column in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times. Pray tell how exactly he's misusing them by pushing his own political preferences in the opinion section?

    Your comment would have some validity if he were writing in the Science or Economics section, but he ain't. And this is even before we go into the fact that most of his political opinions are the logical consequence of his economic beliefs to the best of his academic ability.

    As the GP said, you are really taking issue with his opinions not matching yours and simply trying to disguise them as a high level objection on non-existent grounds.

  • No work==good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @08:54PM (#42400051) Homepage

    will robots put laborers and even the educated out of work?"

    Let me remind people here that this is, in the long run, a good thing (TM). Machines putting people out of work enabled us to have, in the long run, the 40hr work week and a society where people are majoritarily middle class.

    Short term it can be a disaster though. For example the 2nd industrial revolution caused massive unemployment in industrial England and leadto asinine ideologies such as fascism, luddism and socialism elsewhere. These ideologies were misguided attempts to compensate for this momentous labour force disruption by addressing the wrong aspects of the industrial revolution (democracy, machines and capital respectively).

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:03PM (#42400111)

    Problems with people becoming breeding factories? Reduce the basic wage payments given for each child born over +2 by 50% then 75%, then nothing over 4.

    That's only an acceptable solution if you're willing to starve children to punish their parents for overbreeding. Setting quotas with mandatory sterilization (reversable in case of death of a child) seems like it would be better at preventing overpopulation without also punishing children whose parents made bad decisions.

  • by Christian Smith ( 3497 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:28PM (#42400293) Homepage

    Mandatory reversible sterilization of all children when they turn 12 years of age. Then let them undergo the procedure for free to reverse it after age 21 if they choose to do so.

    Dear God, I hope you're not serious! You'd let the government sterilize your child? If this law came in in my country, I'd be on the first to start the revolution.

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @09:43PM (#42400403)

    Mandatory reversible sterilization of all children when they turn 12 years of age. Then let them undergo the procedure for free to reverse it after age 21 if they choose to do so.

    Dear God, I hope you're not serious! You'd let the government sterilize your child? If this law came in in my country, I'd be on the first to start the revolution.

    But you're ok with your young daughter and her boyfriend conceiving a child when their hormones override their common sense? Are you willing to take full financial responsibility for raising her child?

  • Ad Hominem? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by symbolset ( 646467 ) * on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:16PM (#42400631) Journal

    At a certain level understanding of economics leads inevitably to an ethical imperative for political activism, or being a jerk by letting things go to hell without doing anything about it. By the way, the idea isn't his: he's just playing a riff off of Robert J. Gordon's essay. Now that I'm done with your ad hominem, I may as well comment on the fine article.

    In enterprise systems design we've been running out of real problems for about four years. Once you integrate virtualization, modern 10Gbps or faster networks, multicore processors, vast RAM and SSD I/O you're down to working around glitchy legacy software and interpreting the niceties of licensing agreements. The premium names still draw premium prices for these things, but in 2013 that ends as almost all of the redundancy and reliability they provided to justify the premium is replaced with software redundancy on commodity hardware, as happened in SANs over two years ago. Every year the fraction of businesses that need exactly three geographically isolated physical servers grows. You need "big data" or "HPC" problems to find a hardware bone with meat on it still, and those are coming more rare than the people who solve this sort of problem. There are only so many of Twitter, Facebook and CERN. This probably means a career change for me and many others as we become redundant, so I'm not exactly thrilled with it but it is what it is.

    Desktops and laptops have been "good enough" with great software for over seven years, or old software for four or five. Sure, gamers still buy premium systems - as do high-end engineers and others with special needs. But drilling down into system specs to deliver the best cost/benefit ratio for an office worker or typical home browser? No. You can buy a PC with 32GB of RAM, a 6-core processor and decent GPU at Costco for next to nothing. You literally can't get it wrong. Or you can SSD upgrade the one you have already, and blow the dust out and it will do what you need until the electrolyte in the capacitors gives out. The computer in your pocket has far more processor and storage than most people would need. It needs the screen size, but you can attach some of them to any HDMI monitor or 1080p HDTV now for a bigger screen and as many pixels as your laptop or desktop has. That smartphone would have been considered a supercomputer not so long ago, and quite a good PC later even than that. Laptop makers could probably sell one more trip around the upgrade treadmill by offering 4K resolution and touchscreen capability. Probably a half-lap actually.

    So yes, the growth in tech is over at least in the US. With each generation of innovation the people who need or want it grow more scarce. It's diminishing returns. Sooner or later it ends.

    Experts are still needed to wrangle this hardware into a usable state as the software situation is dire and redundant networking remains an occult science. Crudware is inscrutably still a problem. Security and services are still viable markets. But as far as getting any more utility from faster processors, more RAM, faster storage, better batteries and so on... not so much. Mobile devices are where it's at now, and they're disposable. TV repairmen had this problem too, once upon a time.

    This is going to be an unpopular post as well as TL;DR and will probably moderated to death. I'm OK with that. But it's true. For most people and situations computation has come "good enough" for quite some time and is now well into overkill. Like improving the iPad display past "retina" resolution there is no true further progress to be had if further improvement is beyond our ability to perceive the difference. Moore's Law made it all the way to The End.

  • by cdrudge ( 68377 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:24PM (#42400683) Homepage

    But you're ok with your young daughter and her boyfriend conceiving a child when their hormones override their common sense? Are you willing to take full financial responsibility for raising her child?

    Why is it either/or and not neither/nor? I'd not be OK with that either. But given the choice, I think I'd rather help support a child born to a teenage mother or father than forcibly sterilizing my child during their teenage years.

    Horny teenagers have been in existence for about as long as teenagers have existed. There also isn't any, to my knowledge, reversible sterilization where the initial sterilization has a reasonable certainty it will be successful and the reversal has an equal chance to be reversed.

  • by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:33PM (#42400741)

    Mandatory reversible sterilization of all children when they turn 12 years of age. Then let them undergo the procedure for free to reverse it after age 21 if they choose to do so. I will bet you that 90% will prefer to not have kids. Keeping young teens from ruining their lives by having kids is important, teens will hump like rabbits, it's in their nature. Lets not let them ruin their lives because a bunch of backwater uneducated hillbillies wont let the government give out birth control and educated kids in the use of birth control.

    You do realize that if 90% of the population is sterile, then the remaining 10% would have to have no less than 10 kids each (not per family, mind you, per person, one for each person not having kids +1 for themselves, and extras since some will die young) merely to sustain the existing population? Yeah, that sounds like a fantastic idea... if you want your country to collapse in 20 years or so.

    Besides which: forced government sterilization... for serious? Have you read A Brave New World? That's not meant as a guidebook, you know.

  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @10:58PM (#42400875) Journal

    Don't buy into Krugman's presupposition that "robots taking jobs" is evil. Robots are viable only to the extent that they increase productivity. It is PRODUCTIVITY that creates wealth and abundance, not jobs.

    Robots can bring wealth, the question is to whom? Robots taking jobs is not automatically evil, but robots taking jobs is not automatically good either. It depends on what happens with the wealth.

    If you think robots taking jobs is automagically good, just take the current world and assume the Chinese/Indian/Vietnamese/etc workers are "robots", and the US workers are "humans". So how well is the current plan working out for the "humans"? Is it all fine and well? Most of the stuff those Chinese workers do are the very jobs the robots will start to do first.

    If many US humans aren't doing well competing with the Chinese humans, what are they going do when the Chinese humans themselves can't compete with the Chinese robots?

    So don't treat all that "buggy whip" stuff as religion.

    If we manage it well, perhaps we'd only have to work a day a week like in the Jetsons ;). Or maybe not even have to work unless we wanted to.

    If we don't, it's not going to be so great.

  • Re:I would argue (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Rockoon ( 1252108 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:00PM (#42400885)
    It could easily be argued that we have been in "the cheap and abundant energy" phase for a century... oil, coal, gas...
  • by trout007 ( 975317 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:24PM (#42401021)

    The real issue isn't robots taking jobs it is robots taking jobs when there are unemployed people. If everyone is employed you have to automate at least partially to increase productivity. So why is automation increasing while we have so many unemployed? The answer lies in the monetary system Krugman advocates which is a Central Bank making cheap credit available.

    I worked as an engineer for a company that built automation equipment. When we did a study for a company to determine if it made sense to automate there were two big factors that we had to take into account. First is the labor rate and the second is the interest rate. The higher the labor rate and the lower the interest rate the more favorable the decision to automate was.

    If we had an interest rate set by a free market it would be based on the supply of funds available to loan and the demand for those funds. This provides a natural way to regulate a sustainable rate of automation. When there is low unemployment and savings are high interest rates are low and labor rates are high. This is a good time to automate. When there is high unemployment and low savings labor rates will be low and interest rates high. It will make it more advantageous for companies to hire people than automate.

    Right now we have high unemployment and low savings. But we also have a central bank keeping rates artificially low. This makes it advantageous for companies to automate when the real economics don't support it. Also these companies will find out as they ramp up automation and production there won't be enough people with money to buy their products. This is the same thing that happened with the housing market bubble and collapse.

  • Re:Paul Krugman (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Wednesday December 26, 2012 @11:59PM (#42401203) Homepage

    The Peace Prize, the only one awarded from Norway by Nobel's wishes is highly political due to the retards in the committee who think it should be awarded as an incentive to act in its spirit instead of a recognition of actual accomplishment. It's no coincidence that the EU got the prize now as relations between many of the members are heavily strained and not 5 years ago when it was all flowers and sunshine. Unfortunately this has lead to many embarrassing awards when the recipients don't do anything worthy of the prize, or even contrary to it. It has been more than suggested that the recent awards to Obama and EU is ass kissing to further some of their member's international political careers. The committee currently consists only of ex-politicians, lead by a former prime minister. The other Nobel prizes awarded from Sweden are much, much less political.

  • by Rob the Bold ( 788862 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:00AM (#42401207)

    If we don't, it's not going to be so great.

    If you've got the money to invest, I guess I'd put it on "not so great". Then it's a beautiful world, for you. But not for me.

  • by green1 ( 322787 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @12:59AM (#42401467)

    There will come a time when robots and computers can handle all of our needs, and many of our wants without us needing to do the work. Eventually there is no reason why any person will need to work. Unfortunately, the way things are set up now when something is done more efficiently due to technology, the added profit goes to the top, and the no longer required worker gets a pink slip and no income. How we manage a transition from a jobs based economy, to a post-scarcity society will be very interesting.

    You put it very well.

    If we manage it well, perhaps we'd only have to work a day a week like in the Jetsons ;). Or maybe not even have to work unless we wanted to.

    If we don't, it's not going to be so great.

    Unfortunately my suspicion is that it will be managed "not going to be so great" until it gets so bad that we end up with outright revolution and war. After which the eventual end result will probably be much more like the good sci-fi writers predicted, with no work needed and humans free to pursue arts and exploration, knowledge, and the betterment of themselves.

    The good news is that the end result will likely be quite good, and that we probably have a good bunch of years yet before we hit bottom, the bad news is that I just can't conceive of any likely way to get from where we are now, to where we need to be without going through a very dark period indeed, one which could last a very long time.

  • Krugman...and (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lilfields ( 961485 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:36AM (#42401887) Homepage
    Krugman is wrong about...a lot of things, he is very good on trade policy (which is how he won his Nobel) but his Nobel on trade policy doesn't make him an expert on anything else. The media seems to think otherwise, but he has 0 fiscal policy experience, 0 technology experience, etc, etc. He is pretty incompetent in those regards. Computing has a good ways to go, I do think that the upgrade cycles will be getting longer on tablets and phones soon though. I don't know why people seem to think the upgrade cycle of those devices will somehow never get longer like the PC's cycle did.
  • Re:Silly idealist! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Electricity Likes Me ( 1098643 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @03:16AM (#42401987)

    Every recession in the last 80 years or so has been marked by the US top marginal tax rate falling to a low, right before the attendant stock market crash.

    The GFC was preceded by US top marginal tax rates being the lowest they've been at any point in history.

  • You and the AC who first responded both seem to think that waiting into your 20s to become sexually active is 'natural', whereas it is anything but.

    It is mildly entertaining (until one considers just how much influence such types still have in our society) to watch people rationalise circles round the simple fact that it is natural to want to breed when one becomes capable of breeding. This tends to happen in the early teens. In the good old days, you took care of this problem by marrying the kids off as soon as they were old enough to breed. Making your daughter wait until she was in her 20s was considered unnatural; you were wasting a large part of her useful breeding life. Sex apart from breeding was bad, because you needed to reproduce as much as possible.

    These days, we have more than enough people; we no longer need to breed like rabbits just to maintain our survival as a species. Yet we as individuals still have the need to do so; it's hard-wired into us. I personally do not advocate either a return to marriage at age 13 or 14 being the norm or spending our young adult years suppressing an essential part of our natures as a solution to this dilemma. I happen to favour birth control as the default for anyone old enough to breed; Depo-Provera sounds like a good option as it lasts long enough that becoming pregnant is something that must be decided well in advance.

  • by Beezlebub33 ( 1220368 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:32AM (#42403495)
    The idea is not to stop all teenage / unwanted pregnancy. That's not going to happen without draconian methods that are worse than the problem they are trying to solve. However, the rate drops dramatically with education, empowerment of women, and availability of birth control, and that's all that is needed. No forcing anyone to do anything.

    The above horror stories of teens and idiots having children before they were ready are a classic example of 'multiple anecdotes does not equal data'. The idea is to turn the statistical curve, not solve all problems for everybody.
  • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @10:42AM (#42403577) Homepage

    As a parent, I can tell you that I've found 90% of parenting to be "make it up as you go along." You can try to make a plan for what you will do if something happens, but 9 times out of 10 something else will happen to mess up those plans. It's the ultimate on the job training. Nothing prepares you for parenthood. (I shake my head sadly at people who say "I have a dog so I know what it's like to be a parent.") It's not for the feint of heart and it isn't easy.

    Sadly, too many parents have a baby thinking it'll be easy/fun or thinking it will cement their relationship (if anything, it's a source of relationship stress). Then, when their parenthood fantasy is shattered, they find themselves with a crying, hungry, pooping bundle that they don't want the responsibility for.

  • by Sique ( 173459 ) on Thursday December 27, 2012 @02:32PM (#42405261) Homepage
    Doesn't actually matter, what ever country the ancestors came from, if it is in some way an industrialized country, you can count on the teenage pregnancy rates there to be lower than in the U.S.: Ireland 8%, Italy 3%, Poland: 9%, Germany: 6%... Not a single country comes somewhere close to the U.S.'s 22%. And all those countries have better governmental benefits for teenage moms than the U.S., so it's not as if cutting that would change anything. The U.S. simply has a problem with the fundamental sex education and access to contraceptives for teenagers.
  • by pnutjam ( 523990 ) <slashdot.borowicz@org> on Thursday December 27, 2012 @04:21PM (#42406035) Homepage Journal
    Misinformation and short sighted people. I include you in that statement.
    1. free cellphone - not sure but program seems very limited, basically an emergency only phone
    2. free money - very difficult to get cash assistance, especially long term, this is just false
    3. free health insurance - only for kids usually, I don't see any problems with this even if it covers adults.
    4. free food - have you tried living on food stamps, or making a meal with food pantry food, it's not fun
    5. free housing - waiting lists are extremely long, housing is in undesirable areas with undesirable neighbors. If you start to get ahead you will be robbed.

    Everything else you said is already against the rules and just needs to be enforced. It is in many places. The people in your area are lazy, corrupt, or both.
    Having a bachelors degree is not spectacular feat or guarantee you will be able to support yourself. What is your point? You sound like a shollow jealous person, or to use more current vernacular, a hater...

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