Peter Zeihan suggests perhaps, maybe, kinda, we hope’ish that automation may help with labor shortages.

Some think automation is hard and won’t come fast enough; I differ on that point and think automation in various functions will increase more rapidly than expected. Not everything needs to be 100% automation – self checkout counters at grocery stores, or order entry kiosks at restaurants are examples of partial automation that shifts labor to the customer. ATM machines and self-serve gas are similar examples.

Peter notes our economy is consumer centric – new workers become new consumers. But new automation doesn’t go out and buy products and services (in general). That is a good point.

Another item that might reduce labor demand is building better products that last longer. Some businesses make products that seem intended to break within a fixed amount of time. Others have, in fact, improved reliability. With my first car (a late 1970s car bought used) I had to adjust the valves every 12,000 miles and “tune up” a bunch of stuff. I’m at 60,000 miles on my 2015 car and have only replaced the battery, wiper blades, engine oil, oil filter, air filter, cabin air filter, windshield wiper fluid and getting ready to replace the tires for the first time.

Others suggest in an eventual declining population, the world is filled with excess “stuff” from homes to furniture – and demand for consumable goods may drop – lessening demand for workers to make “stuff”. That, of course, introduces its own set of problems.

Much to think about.

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