Thursday, February 16, 2006

Productivity and Economic Growth

This post is a stretch, but stay with me. Hopefully you'll see where I'm going.

Yesterday I received a recent copy of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland's Economic Commentary. The article, Are We Engineering Ourselves out of Manufacturing Jobs? was an interesting discussion about productivity and job growth.

However, it got me thinking about an old (1963) science fiction short story by C. M. Kornbluth titled Little Black Bag. (For a synopsis of the story check here.) In that story, future technocrats had developed technology to the point that anyone could "do" anything. The technology held the skill. The little black bag was a doctor's bag that could be operated by anyone, because all the instruments did the diagnosis, the prescribing, even the surgery. This represents one view of a pinnacle in economic growth--an era where even complex professions can be mastered by anyone given the proper technology. Of course, the true decision-making lies with the handful of experts at the top of the futuristic society.

When studying productivity and technology's contribution to economic growth, it might be interesting to use this story as a discussion starter. Has anyone done this, or is anyone even familiar with this story?

Posted by TSchilling at February 16, 2006 7:39 PM

Not with that one, but there was another where aliens provided a duplicating machine that could duplicate anything including itself in an attempt to destroy the economy. The world changed overnight from one of mass markets to one where only unique innovative design held any value.

Posted by: Lord at February 18, 2006 5:23 PM

Do you remember the title and author of that story? It sounds interesting. Kind of an evil application of replicator technology from Star Trek.

Posted by: Tim at February 21, 2006 4:49 PM

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