There's always a reason why "This time is different"


And, I think it’s usually wrong. I was thinking about my previous post on productivity increases, and realizing a lot of people would probably argue that “this time is different.”

Essentially the argument would be that, because technology is moving so much faster now, and we’re automating things at a pace never before seen, that the “harm” done from these productivity increases will be more dramatic than ever before.

I tend to agree with the fact that we are moving faster now, we’re automating faster, and we’re increasing productivity faster, but I don’t agree that this is harmful. Nor do I agree that the outcome of these productivity improvements will be any different from the millions of improvements of the past 10,000 to 1 million years of human advancement. Of course every moment in time is different from any other historical example, but to think the outcomes will be drastically different seems naive.

To me, its actually exciting that productivity is increasing that quickly. Imagine what we’ll be doing when nobody has to drive cars anymore, or possibly even own them. When businesses can order something online and have it there by drone in less than 30 minutes (when they can’t print what they need on their 3-d printer). Conversely, imagine if you still had to pay a human being to be your alarm clock, or if a person had to hand-deliver your email communications.

This time likely won’t be different. People will find ways to adapt, and society won’t be worse off for the productivity gains, but will be in awe of how we used to do things before them.