Can Thomas Friedman Hyperconnect to His Own Columns?

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Sunday, 12 January 2014 09:27

That's what readers everywhere are asking after seeing Thomas Friedman's column touting the new world in which technology will not only replace less-skilled workers, but will also make workers with considerable skills redundant. This view is 180 degrees at odds with the view often expressed in Thomas Friedman's columns that we are facing a period of serious scarcity due to the burden of supporting a massive generation of retired baby boomers (for example here and here). If robots are going to make it so that we don't need any workers then we should be delighted that so many baby boomers are retiring since this will at least open up some jobs for young people. (Of course we could all just work fewer hours, but that is far too simple a solution for big thinkers.)

While the prospect of a huge surge in productivity growth described in Friedman's piece would be great news (we could easily feed and house the world and stop global warming) there is no evidence of it in the data. Productivity growth has averaged just 1.3 percent annually over the last four years, far below the growth rate of the prior decade and even below the 1.5 percent growth rate in the years of the productivity slowdown from 1973 to 1995.

Note; Productivity numbers corrected, thanks LSTB.