This post is extracted from one by Izabella Kaminska, written in December 2013, who was one of the first people to dive into this area – and took quite a lot of flak for doing so. The links are all hers.

There’s an important theoretical point buried implicitly in here, one that David Harvey makes in his readings of Capital, that only human labour can create value. It’s quite technical, though, and I need to spend time on it to understand it better

One of her theories – that we have a crisis in the value of work because we are being too productive with our leisure time is interesting – and a bit Clay Shirky, though I’m not completely persuaded. But the point of a research blog is to catch all this stuff.

It took almost a year for me to be taken seriously on the “technology is undermining capital” front, so it was extremely exciting to see the debate blast off in serious economic circles during the last quarter of 2012. I thought it might be useful, as a result, to provide some links to the most recent developments — since the debate really is moving quickly now. …

One of the criticisms I face all the time, meanwhile, is that all this tech innovation has been going on for centuries. Why should there be a crisis of capital now? What makes this time any different? And what makes my sudden focus on tech relevant?

For starters, what I feel is new is the idea that the financial crisis was born out of the tech crash. If not for the dotcom bubble, we would not have had the conditions to create the subprime crisis. The China outsourcing phenomenon and imbalance situation may also have been born out of a need to replace mechanised labour — which compromised capital — with human labour, which still ensured profit and the preservation of capital. It was in a sense, an artificial scarcity response… designed to spread spending power to secure return on capital, rather than extinguish it.

I wrote a “Man in the high castle” type piece on FT Alphaville earlier this year, imagining what might have happened had the West not outsourced labour as extensively back in the 1990s. The conclusion was that the West may have been Japan-ified much earlier on.

But what really makes this time different, I would argue, is that a lot of the competition is now coming from a) the voluntary and crowd sourcing/open source arena and b) it’s only artificial scarcities (patents, monopoly interests) which are preventing complete democratisation of technologically-fueled abundance across the world. It is thus because monopoly power is slipping, challenged as it is by free alternatives rather than cheaper ones… that the crisis is beginning to manifest.

In a nutshell there is too much leisure time being devoted to productivity. We are too productive at ever cheaper (or free) rates, and as a consequence the pool of salaried jobs (those which must offer a good salary to attract specific skills) is diminishing quickly. … That, at least, is my entirely non-substantiated theory.

Anyway, enough drifting. Here are the links as promised:


Rise of the Robots – Paul Krugman (Dec 8)

Technology or Monopoly Power? – Paul Krugman (Dec 9)

Robots and Robber Barons – Paul Krugman (Dec 10)

Technology and Wages, the Analytics (Wonkish) – Paul Krugman (Dec 10)

Human vs Physical Capital (Krugman’s “mea culpa” moment) (Dec 11)

Is growth over? – Paul Krugman (Dec 26)

Capital-biased Technological Progress: An Example (Wonkish) – Paul Krugman (Dec 26)

Futurism and Policy – Paul Krugman (Dec 27)

Policy Implications of Capital-Biased Technology: Opening Remarks – Paul Krugman (Dec 28)

Kenneth Rogoff

Innovation Crisis or Financial Crisis? – Ken Rogoff (Project Syndicate) (Dec 4)

Marginal Revoluion (Tyler Cowen)

What is the potential for 3-D printing?  (Dec 23)

Are robots and aging demographics self-cancelling problems? (Dec 28)

Peter Thiel and Gary Kasaparov (FT)

Our dangerous illusion of tech progress  (Nov 8)

Noahpinion (Noah Smith)

Rise of the cyborgs   (Dec 26)

Pragmatic Capitalism (Cullen Roche)

Robots Suck, No Robots Rule – What Say Ye? (Dec 10)

Reformed Broker (Josh Brown)

Own the Robots, Bro, Trust Me. (Dec 27)

Laurence Kotlikoff and Jeffrey Sachs

Smart Machines and Long-Term Misery (pdf) – NBER (Dec 2012)

David Graeber

Of Flying Cars and the Declining Rate of Profit – The Baffler (June 4)

Robert Gordon



The Patent Problem (13 November)

Climateer Investing

Artificial Intelligence is the Key to Future Growth — Or Stagnation – (Dec 27)

A Roundup on Robots, Capital-biased Technological Change and Inequality (plus how to tell if a person is a fiduciary) – (Dec 18)

The Next Time You Bitch and Moan About the Lack of Jetpacks, Remember Disposable Diapers!” – (Dec 17)

Robots Raise a Row(e) in Economics Land – (Dec 16)

The March of Robots Into Chinese Factories – (Dec 6)

The Paradox of Profit Margins and Another Look at the Theory of Everything – (Sept 24)

The Road to Serfdom: Where the Robots Are Taking Us – Climateer Investing (Dec 11)

The theory of everything – (August 11)


Enough is enough of the age of consumption – FT (July 4)

And my tech-related stuff (includes refs or features work of others)

[Alphaville, free, needs registration]

In an economy not so far, far away – FT (Dec 28)

The FT Alphaville podcast, with Dylan Grice – FT Alphaville (Dec 21)

Defending the Romans – FT Alphaville (Dec 12)

The robot economy and the new rentier class – FT Alphaville (Dec 10)

The personalised pricing revolution – FT Alphaville (Nov 21)

Whose idea is it anyway – Towards a Leisure Society (Nov 16)

Money as a passion, not a standard – FT Alphaville (Oct 10)

Welcome to the ‘Desert of the Real’ — a postmodern economy – FT Alphaville (Oct 09)

Rubik’s Revolutions – FT Alphaville (Oct 03)

The case against idea monopolisation – FT Alphaville (Oct 03)

The decline or the redefinition of labour? – FT Alphaville (Sept 26)

A time of hoarding and inflation fears, 1930s edition – FT Alphaville (Sept 24)

Beyond happiness – FT Alphaville (Sept 20)

The BoE on Britain’s productivity puzzle – FT Alphaville (Sept 19)

Are UK companies hoarding labour? – FT Alphaville (Sept 12)

How technology is killing the Asian growth miracle – FT Alphaville (Sept 10)

Towards a steady-state economy? – FT Alphaville (Sept 04)

Time to resurrect the ‘missing variable’ – FT Alphaville (Aug 31)

3D Printing: Rise of the machines – FT Alphaville (Aug 10)

Negative rates as a precursor to the death of banking – FT Alphaville (Jul 31)

China flash PMIs — the employment factor – FT Alphaville (July 24)

China as a post capital economy – FT Alphaville (July 12)

Pariah profits in an age of ‘negative carry’ – FT Alphaville (Jul 05)

The negative carry universe – FT Alphaville (July 04)

On abundance, post-scarcity and leisure – FT Alphaville (Jun 20)

On price stability during an ‘abundance shock’ – FT Alphaville (June 26)

Shopping in the future – FT Alphaville (Jun 14)

Redefining labour – FT Alphaville (Jun 12)

The end of artificial scarcity – FT Alphaville (Jun 03)

Space opera, beyond finance edition – FT Alphaville (Feb 29)

Economics, a space opera – FT Alphaville (Feb 03)

Others from Alphaville 

Robots! No Robots! – FT Alphaville

Ahhhh! No robots! – FT Alphaville

Beyond Scarcity – FT Alphaville (series)

On price stability during an ‘abundance shock’ – FT Alphaville

Is that robot going to steal your job? – FT Alphaville (Sept 14)