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Sun Jan 24, 2016, 11:07 AM

Davos Chair Book On "4th Industrial Revolution" Mentions Climate 1x; Slow Growth Worrisome, Though [View all]


A key problem for the future, he says, is that economic growth will remain slow, unless the inevitably arriving technological revolution finally produces a commensurate improvement in productivity. Alas, he says, the recent lack of productivity growth “is one of today’s great economic enigmas … for which there is no satisfactory explanation.” (But students of energy economics will note that the years of reduced productivity cited by Klaus correspond neatly with a steady decline in energy return on investment (EROI).)

Likewise, Schwab sees increasing economic inequality as potentially ominous, though he doesn’t suggest anything to ameliorate the trends. It’s possible that large numbers of blue-collar workers will lose their jobs to robots, and white-collar employees will be replaced by artificially intelligent algorithms. The growth of “the human cloud” may end regular employment, with pensions and benefits, in favor of ad hoc tasks assigned by websites.

So will a dire employment outlook be part of the new technological future? Klaus says “The choice of ours” – but he doesn’t say who is included in the “we” and “ours” of that choice. “It entirely depends on the policy and institutional decisions we make”, he says, and then exhibits a distinct “free market” bias when he adds “a regulatory backlash could happen, thereby reasserting the power of policymakers in the process and straining the adaptive forces of a complex system.” (Yes, the dreaded regulation. The Guardian reports this week that in a survey of chief executives by PricewaterhouseCoopers, over-regulation topped all worries.)


One last thing. If you’re concerned that climate change might be a downer in our future, perhaps Schwab will allay your fears. The phrase “climate change” appears only once in the book, and Schwab turns away worries about carbon emissions and resource depletion with this paean to new (and as yet uninvented) technologies:

The fourth industrial revolution will enable firms to extend the use-cycle of assets and resources, increase their utilization and create cascades that recover and repurpose materials and energy for further uses, lowering emissions and resource loads in the process. In this revolutionary new industrial system, carbon dioxide turns from a greenhouse pollutant into an asset, and the economics of carbon capture and storage move from being cost as well as pollution sinks to becoming profitable carbon-capture and use-production facilities.



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Reply Davos Chair Book On "4th Industrial Revolution" Mentions Climate 1x; Slow Growth Worrisome, Though [View all]
hatrack Jan 2016 OP
cantbeserious Jan 2016 #1
hatrack Jan 2016 #2
pscot Jan 2016 #3
hatrack Jan 2016 #4
Nihil Jan 2016 #5