Where is Technology Taking The Economy?

A succession of technologies—the Internet, the cloud, big data, robotics, machine learning, and now artificial intelligence—are becoming powerful enough to drive the world into a digital economic revolution.

Brian Arthur, an external professor at the Santa Fe Institute and a visiting researcher at the System Sciences Lab at PARC (a Xerox company), argued a few years back that the digital technologies have created a second economy, a virtual and autonomous one. He now believes the main feature of this autonomous economy is not merely that it deepens the physical one. It’s that it is steadily providing an external intelligence in business—one not housed internally in human workers but externally in the virtual economy’s algorithms and machines. Business and engineering and financial processes can now draw on huge “libraries” of intelligent functions and these greatly boost their activities—and bit by bit render human activities obsolete.

This is causing the economy to enter a new and different era. The economy has arrived at a point where it produces enough in principle for everyone, but where the means of access to these services and products, jobs, is steadily tightening. So, this new period is not so much about production anymore; it is about distribution—how people get a share of those products and services.