New Fast Company: 3 New Economies
My new Fast Company essay is up: Three Possible Economic Models talks a bit about what 21st century economics might look like, given certain disruptive drivers. Yes, Resilience Economics is there, but so is "Just-in-Time Socialism" and "Robonomics."
Speaking as a social futurist, not an economist, the three emerging conditions that ride high on my list of potential breaking points for the modern economy are as follows:
- Brittle Strength: The current global economy seems to exaggerate booms and busts, and the ongoing consolidation of corporate actors into "too big to fail" entities means that when busts happen--and they do--the system tends towards failure rather than "soft landing." It's getting harder and harder for governments to step in and serve as safety nets to prevent total collapse; the current economic downturn may well be the last one the system can stand.
- Griefer Economics: Information is power, especially when it comes to finance, and the increasing use of ultra-fast computers to manipulate markets (and drive out "weaker" competitors) is moving us into a world where market position isn't determined by having the best offering, but by having the best tool. Rules are gamed, opponents are beaten before they even know they're playing, and it all feels very much like living on a PvP online game server where the referees have all gone home.
- Robots Stole My Job!: Think you can't be replaced by a machine? Think again. Robots are becoming more dextrous, able to do a growing number of tasks requiring precision and strength, and computer systems are becoming smarter, able to tackle jobs needing pattern-matching and creative skills. Humans are still cheaper, for now, but this puts downward pressure on wages--and the old rule that new technology opens up entirely new fields of human labor won't hold true forever. Smarter, more capable machines will snap up those jobs, too.
All exaggerations, to be sure, but indicative of where trends seem to be heading. All are issues that could, over the next decade, explode in a way that pushes us to try innovative economic and social models.
Next week, I'll examine the three resulting models in more detail.