Disruptive Technology: Can Job Creation Keep Pace with Job Destruction?

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerArthur Gardner Arthur Gardner was an electrician. Born in 1883, one year after Thomas Edison turned on the lights for 59 customers in Lower Manhattan, my grandfather was part of a new and rapidly growing occupation. He spent his workdays running wire through the homes of Chicago’s wealthy South Shore neighborhood. Electricity displaced the use of coal gas, which, in its turn, had displaced oil lamps and candles. Just as gas lighting propelled an expansion of industrial production and improved literacy, electricity—good for so much more than lighting—made vast new industries possible.

Arthur raised a family of gearheads—amateur engineers who tinkered with every kind of technology. My father began a career in computers in 1960, taking night classes in computer programming languages throughout my childhood. Coding books—FORTAN, COBOL, RPG—littered our basement. When our car needed winter “ballast” for snowy streets, we threw in 8 or 10 boxes of IBM cards. I still have a few. Read more »

Confessions of a Free Market Economist

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner I’ve a weakness for dystopian literature (think Cormac McCarthy’s The Road). The premise of these books is a disaster thThe Roadat fundamentally alters the trajectory of the planet. The apocalypse is typically human-caused, some act that taps into our collective guilt about environmental degradation, warlust or technological hubris.

An economist’s dystopia is portrayed in Kurt Vonnegut’s Player Piano. Instead of a despoiled planet or some biological or digital monster, Vonnegut’s first novel portrays a society nearly bereft of work. Set at a thinly disguised General Electric (where Vonnegut once worked), World War III prompts an acceleration in automation, allowing the U.S. to win the war. A decade later, automation has become near total. The only people needed are the very best engineers, who spend their days seeking new efficiencies, displacing yet more human involvement. They’ve been freed from work—utopia, right? Read more »