Tech guru and venture capitalist Marc Andreessen said Tuesday that automation, like the technology embedded in self-driving cars, will not take away available jobs but will actually create more.
“It’s a Luddite fallacy. It’s a recurring panic,” Andreessen said during a conference hosted by Recode, specifically referring to the oft-professed concern that automation is bad for the country and the world. “This happens every 25 or 50 years — people get all amped up about ‘machines are going to take all the jobs’ and it never happens.”
Andreessen used particular historical references to help corroborate his contentions.
People, especially horse and carriage workers, for example, were very worried about the ascension of cars around a century or so ago.
The manufacturing of vehicles not only created more jobs directly, according to Andreessen, but also spurred innovation in other areas, such as paved road construction. This led to the idea of suburbs and consumer establishments like hotels, restaurants and movie theaters.
“The jobs that were created by the automobile on the second, third, and fourth order effects were 100 times, 1000 times, the number of jobs that blacksmiths had,” he continued. (RELATED: Tech Tycoon: Silicon Valley Is ‘Extremely Liberal,’ Doesnt Understand Rest of America)
Likely due to the public outcry over computerization and its effects on society, Andreessen defended technology. He said the three main sectors that are “eating the economy” and are currently undergoing a price crisis (construction, healthcare, and education) have been slow to progress technologically. In other words, Andreessen claims that the parts of American society that are struggling the most are the ones that technology hasn’t changed or improved.
“I think the opportunity and the challenge for the tech industry and Silicon Valley and all of us to go to figure out how to have a much bigger impact in the slow growth sectors of the economy,” Andresssen explained.
Andreessen, along with his fellow speaker Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn, cited several other potential benefits of driverless cars, including reduced roadway deaths caused by human error, less traffic congestion, and more leisure time during transit. (RELATED: Distracted Driving Is A Huge Problem, And Autonomous Cars Could Help)
However, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a study in March that found industrial robots had a significantly negative impact on U.S. employment and wages for many local labor markets between 1990 and 2007.
Ryan Hagemann, director of technology policy at the think tank, the Niskanen Center, said he finds this relatively surprising, while also adding that the analysis doesn’t appear to factor in all of the potential effects of advanced technology.
“We’re more likely to see humans working with and not competing against robots in many of the industry jobs imperiled by automation,” Hagemman explained to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Because the authors’ model treats the labor market as one of competition between human labor and automated labor, it doesn’t seem to account for potential productivity gains through cooperation between the two.” (RELATED: Google Exec: I Am A ‘Job Elimination Denier’ When It Comes To Robots)
Others, like Hagemann, argue the tangible and intangible benefits of automation, robotics, and advanced technology in general, may not transpire right away or be as easily perceptive.
“The endless search for new and better ways of doing things drives human learning and, ultimately, prosperity in every sense–economic, social, and cultural,” Adam Thierer, senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center, wrote in his book Permissionless Innovation. “The pessimistic critics of technological progress and permissionless innovation have many laments, but they typically fail to consult the historical record to determine how much better off we are than our ancestors.”
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