Joe Nocera uses his column today to discuss the scary robot story. This is the story that none of us will have jobs because we will all be displaced by robots. (Incredibly, this story exists side by side with its direct opposite, the view that we won't have any workers because so many people are retiring and living forever.) Anyhow, the deal is that the owners of the robots are very rich and the rest of us are left begging for pennies.

The reason this story makes no sense is that the ability to get rich from owning robots will not depend on physically owning a robot. Robots will be cheap to produce; they will be made by other robots. If robots are expensive it will be because we give strong and long patent monopolies.

Without strong patent protection we will all be able to buy robots for a few dollars that will cook our food, clean our homes, install cheap solar panels and insulation, provide us medical care, grow our vegetables, and teach our children. How could we be poor in this world?

In short, the scary story is a story of patent policy designed to redistribute income upward. It has nothing to do with technology.

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