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Karl Widerquist on Keynes and automation, “The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandparents”

This article, originally published in 2006, has been re-released on the author because of the renewed importance of automation in the basic income debate

Abstract: This article draws lessons about the automation revolution by looking back at predictions John Maynard Keynes made back in 1928 about what technological innovation could do for humanity. Keynes rightly predicted the enormous economic growth the economy would experience for the rest of the twentieth century but wrongly predicted that it would greatly reduce the work week. This article examines how he got it so right and so wrong, and uses that examination to draw lessons about dealing with the automation revolution today. Automation is nothing new. Its potential—both to improve life and to disrupt people’s lives—as been accumulating for hundreds of years. Far too often we have allowed technological innovation to disrupt the labor market without allowing most people to take full advantage of the benefits it makes possible.


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