Ned Ludd sigue muerto

CAMBRIDGE – Desde los albores de la era industrial, se ha reiterado el temor al desempleo masivo debido a los cambios en la tecnología. Los economistas neoclásicos predijeron que esto no sucedería porque la gente encontraría otros empleos, aunque tal vez luego de un largo período de dolorosos ajustes. Por lo general, esa predicción ha sido correcta.

Doscientos años de impresionante innovación desde el inicio industrial han elevado los estándares de vida para el ciudadano común en gran parte del mundo, sin que se haya producido un brusco aumento en las tendencias del desempleo. Ciertamente, existieron muchos problemas, en particular rachas de pasmosa desigualdad y guerras cada vez más horribles. A fin de cuentas, sin embargo, en gran parte del mundo las personas viven más tiempo, trabajan muchas menos horas, y suelen llevar vidas más sanas.

Pero no puede negarse que el cambio tecnológico se ha acelerado en estos tiempos, lo que puede conducir a trastornos más profundos. En un artículo muy citado, publicado en 1983, el gran economista Wassily Leontief comentaba su preocupación porque la velocidad del cambio tecnológico moderno es tal que muchos trabajadores, incapaces de adaptarse, sencillamente serán obsoletos, como los caballos luego del auge del automóvil. ¿Es el matadero el destino de millones de trabajadores?

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