Technology for Play More than for Work

I came across this article on Vox which makes an astute point on technological productivity, or the lack thereof. He notes that automation has not increased efficiency in the same amounts as in the past:

But despite the techno-hype and the national obsession with disruption, the pace of productivity growth has slowed down. The American economy has grown, but largely by adding workers rather than by workers equipping themselves with powerful new machines to multiply their capabilities. And the number of hours worked per worker has stayed relatively flat, even while other countries have continued to enhance their leisure.

And that reconciles this observation with our current rut of stagnant wages:

And the slowing rate of productivity growth is an important source of the wage slowdown that people have been worrying about.

His theory is that the great technological advances of the past decade has disproportionally disrupted the media and entertainment industries. This gives us, the customers, a perception of massive advancement without an equal economic boost. The oft-cited criticism of getting 140 characters instead of flying cars suggests that we are currently focused on incremental improvements in communication, not necessarily Industrial Revolution-scale advances.

That said, it’s not a terrible thing to work on fixing the problems created by modern societies, even if it’s less aspirational than broadening new frontiers. Global messaging has made instantaneous communication extremely cheap, and cloud storage has saved many lifetimes that would otherwise be spent wrangling data. We can only hope that technological advancement follows a tick-tock cadence, and that we’re ticking our way to the next tock.

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