Posted Friday, Dec. 7, 2012, at 3:23 PM
I see a lot of American political discourse dominated by two equal and opposite fears. One is fear of population aging, and the consequent transformation into a society in which a larger and larger share of economic output is dedicating to taking take of the elderly. The other is fear of automation and the consequent transformation into a society in which nobody can find a job.
These two trends are simply two sides of the same coin. Employment in the health care sector is growing much faster than overall employment (see chart of health care jobs as a share of all jobs), and that trend shows no sign of slowing down.
What will everyone do for work when everything is automated? They'll take care of old people and sick people, because people would rather interact with human beings if possible. How will we afford all this caretaking for the elderly? Because there will be so much automation that we'll enjoy lives of material plenty even with very little human work.