Prominent economic historian Joel Mokyr and two co-authors, Chris Vickers and Nicholas Ziebarth, provide a compelling discussion of the historical relationships among technology, economic growth, and (cultural and other forms of) anxiety. They address three major forces:
1. Widespread substitution of capital for labor in the short run with beneficial long run trends for employment and living standards
2. Anxiety over the moral implications of technological change on people’s welfare
3. The notion (as posited by economists including Robert Gordon and Tyler Cowen) that economic growth influenced by technological change is behind us.
They argue that the current episode is similar to our experiences with industrial revolutions of the past 250 years. This time is NOT different. The complete paper is available from the Journal of Economic Perspectives.
I encourage everyone to read it.