“Technology Doesn’t Always Beat Labor”

The above title of a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article caught my eye. The author was commenting on a number of recent books that addressed the issue of technologies putting people out of work. The article began with an 1867 quote from Karl Marx that went like this: “History discloses no tragedy more horrible than the gradual extinction of the English handloom weavers by the rapid and persistent progress of machinery.” Referring to this situation with the 19th century weavers, James Bessen, in his book Learning by Doing, noted that as humans work with new technologies over the long term, they improve them and boost their own fortunes in the process. Wages of weavers remained flat for a decade, but from 1860 to 1890, weavers’ pay more than doubled.


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