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Humans, Horses and the Arc of Economic Obsolescence | Thought Infection

“The most fascinating thing that I think the two speakers brought up was a very apt comparison of human workers to horses. A hundred years ago, a horse was a very important economic unit. If I offered to lease my horse to almost any business owner for a reasonable price, they would have likely taken me up on the deal because they could do a lot of stuff with a horse. They could get themselves to work, they could deliver goods to market, they could plow a field, or they could sub-lease the horse out to do any of these jobs for other people. Horses used to be useful and profitable.

But if you were to take your horse to most any business person today, even if you offered the horse to them for free, you would probably get laughed out of the building. What the hell am I supposed to do with a horse? This would almost certainly be their response for the simple reason that horses are no longer economically useful. Machines have replaced horses so perfectly that the cost to train, feed and house a horse greatly outweighs their economic benefit. Outside of a few niche nostalgic industries, horses are economically obsolete.

So this of course begs the question, are human workers going to become like the horse? Of course there will be an economically productive place for exceptional people for the foreseeable future (just as there is for exceptional horses), but the question is really about the average worker. Will we soon get to a point where automation is so cheap and so effective that the cost to train, feed and house an average worker will outweigh the economic benefit that can be derived from them.”

Humans, Horses and the Arc of Economic Obsolescence | Thought Infection

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