“Is it really plausible that we are today producing – or that we will soon produce – machines in such quantities and with such a range of capacities that there is literally nothing that a low-skilled worker can produce of value for other human beings that cannot be supplied by such machines at a lower cost to these other human beings?”

November 17th, 2011

Don Boudreaux and Bryan Caplan ponder this question. GMU is much cooler than I ever realized when I applied there.

1. Non-economists have been falsely predicting the technological obsolescence of human labor for centuries.  Economists have been correcting them for about as long.  Clearly ZMP’s psychological appeal far exceeds its true relevance.  This creates a very high burden of proof for anyone who claims that the ZMP nightmare is finally a reality.

2. Low-skilled Americans clearly didn’t have ZMP a few years ago.  Indeed, their marginal product remained enormous by world and historic standards.  How could their productivity have changed so much so quickly?*

Will computers replace the need for all lawyers? No.  This technology would not be about replacing lawyers (at least not lawyers who adapt); rather, it would provide advocates with information and knowledge to serve clients more effectively and at a lower cost.