What if robots take our jobs?

Robots are becoming more sophisticated and common, and consequently they will inevitably displace a large number of workers (they have already done so). But historically, while technological progress generally resulted in painful transitory periods, in the long run it was always for the better. The question is whether this will remain the case.

Recently, even middle class jobs were replaced by machines because of the IT revolution. This might exacerbate inequality as the upper classes and those who can adapt to the new technologies will be able to reap the benefits of higher productivity (thanks to machines), but others will lose their jobs or will be forced to lower paying positions. Until now, for the most part new jobs have been created for the displaced workers in various industries. But what if this ceases to continue? What if labor gets replaced by robots and no new labor-intensive jobs arise?

Continue reading


Science, the religious right and inequality

Science, politics and religion have often been intertwined over the course of history. Think of the Muslim Golden Age and the subsequent lack of tolerance for science in the Muslim world, or the Roman Inquisition and its effects on people like Galilei. For a more recent example, one can look at the US where the religious right likes to stall advances in science (e.g. creationism, stem cell research, climate change denial).

Why is science sometimes the enemy of, other times tolerated by the church? Why do the US and European political landscapes differ so much, with the former much less enthusiastic about redistribution and much more willing to let religion influence politics? And how does income inequality affect the dynamics between science, religion and politics? Read on to find out.

Continue reading

The Dutch disease and the distribution of resource revenues

The decline in a country’s manufacturing sector after new resources (e.g. oil, gas) are found is referred to as the Dutch disease. The classical manifestation of the Dutch disease is due to an appreciation of the exchange rate. In other words, the resource-rich country exports a lot of natural resources, which makes its currency appreciate in value. This will then render (manufacturing) exports less competitive, and hence the subsequent slump in the manufacturing sector.

While this may be the original definition, the Dutch disease is actually more complicated. Certain countries feel it more severely than others, and in many cases it occurs even when exchange rates do not enter the picture at all.

Continue reading