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Tyler Cowen

In a Robot Economy, All Humans Will Be Marketers

Here's one way the technological revolution isn't very inspiring.
No, I can't recommend a wine.

No, I can't recommend a wine.

Photographer: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

The fear that robots, or more generally smart software, will put us all out of work is one of dominant economic memes of our time. But that fear is misplaced. We’re unlikely to see mass unemployment; rather, workers will shift into new economic sectors -- albeit with transition pains -- as has always been the case. The real risk is that the robots will push too many of us into less socially productive jobs -- especially those in marketing.

Let’s consider the ATM. Contrary to what many people think, the widespread adoption of automated teller machines in the 1990s didn’t significantly diminish the demand for bank tellers. ATMs made bank branches easier and cheaper to operate, and that led banks to hire more staff, including tellers.