Friday 21 October 2016

We're still ignoring the impact of technology on our economy

Published 14/08/2015 | 02:30

Man against machine: a 'humanoid' robot in a shop in Tokyo
Man against machine: a 'humanoid' robot in a shop in Tokyo

I have begun to realise there is probably little point in writing to newspapers regarding the impact of technology on the whole economic scene.

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Seven years ago, I began to draw attention to the possibility of technology being the overwhelming influence on economic turmoil in the 21st century and the Irish Independent had the courage and commitment to freedom of speech to allow this divergent opinion be heard.

I consider newspapers the best and only avenue for a nonentity to express an argument which apparently terrorises the political and economic establishment to such a degree that they are unable to challenge the logic and their only defence is to ignore the argument being made.

The media in general has been badly served by economic commentators since the 2008 crash. There is a universal refusal to consider, much less discuss the impact of technology. The 21st century is personified by the genius of invention and innovation, which has taken economics onto an entirely new plateau of achievement and success.

The parameters which governed economic activity throughout history have crumbled; the laws of supply/demand and production/employment have been reversed.

Everyone knows the "Greek solution" is unworkable and doomed to failure, as discussed in your editorial (Irish Independent, August 12) yet it proceeds.

Chinese stock markets are in turmoil as growth there is halved in three years and destined to shrink further (the world is not big enough to consume all China can produce). Predictions of Wall Street collapse from eminent US economists grow louder by the day.

Baxter, an industrial robot which can replace human labour in small/medium output facilities, is available at less than $25,000, and dairy farming faces disaster due to milk oversupply exacerbated by the lunatic removal of quotas.

We have catastrophically misjudged the last seven years as a "recession", whereas it is a gigantic leap forward to a new economic era of abundance with greatly reduced dependence on human labour.

We resort to debt to try and sustain/resurrect growth and employment through bailouts, repayment restructuring and quantitative easing (banks provided the debt a decade ago) in a desperate attempt to pretend modern technology never happened. But it has happened.

Padraic Neary, Tubbercurry, Co Sligo

The Irish are migrants too

For once, I agree absolutely with the sentiments expressed by Zoe Lawlor in her incisive critique of the Irish media's recent coverage of the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean (Letters, Irish Independent, August 13).

Ms Lawlor goes right to the heart of the issue by forcefully condemning a media language that "dehumanises" these desperate people, and she articulates the outrage of Irish citizens at the callous use of terms like "migrants" about people who are desperately fleeing persecution in their chaotic and war-torn homelands. This is not merely offensive, but demeans the valiant efforts of our wonderful navy, which is rescuing people from certain death on a daily basis.

This is all the more pertinent when this human tragedy is often spun as one of simple economic migration. Imagine the media storm if a commentator used this template in a revisionist commentary on the million-and-a-half Irish men, women and children who fled starvation in the Great Famine of the 19th century.

Or to bring a contemporary face to Irish economic migration, the estimated 50,000 illegal Irish in America, none of whom fled the murder, torture or rape which would surely have been the fate of those vulnerable people who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean.

Dr Kevin McCarthy, Kinsale, Co Cork

Humanitarian platitudes

Zoe Lawlor rightly points out that refugees and economic migrants trying to enter Europe are first and foremost human beings.

But I'm disappointed that leading lights such as President Michael D Higgins, former president Mary Robinson, and columnist Liz O'Donnell, who have all said that these people should be welcomed, have not had the honesty or courage to propose concrete figures on how many they think we should take in over the next year, five years, etc.

Do they want some restrictions or no restrictions? Generalised humanitarian platitudes sound nice, but are not very useful.

P Davis, Dublin 17

Rural areas are forgotten

I read the successful Garda unit set up to deal with criminal gangs is to be disbanded. It is the rural areas suffering most from these gangs. Whatever the Government might say, this would seem further evidence it does not give a damn about rural areas, with the closure of hospitals, post offices, garda stations, etc.

David Kelly, Crumlin, Dublin 12

Give Labour some credit

Quite a lot of Irish voters have refused to accept the Labour Party's input into the Government's successes in recent times. They complain of broken promises, etc.

They seem to forget the Labour Party didn't win the last election and had about a third of the seats Fine Gael won, and therefore couldn't deliver on some of its promises.

However, the impact the party has achieved must be seen in light of the fact that things could have been a lot worse if it wasn't in Government, particularly regarding social welfare, children's allowances, free travel for the elderly and free television allowances.

Certainly, the Government has got a number of things badly wrong, but look where our country is now - on the road to recovery.

Think of these things when you're casting your vote and close your ears to those shouting the loudest.

Name and address with Editor

Dáil gender quota a bad idea

Daithi McCarthaigh (Letters, Irish Independent, August 11) makes an impassioned plea in favour of forcing the electorate to elect at least 50pc of the next Dáil solely on the basis of their being women.

Of course, there is no mention of a minimum level of male representation. Such an idea would be misogynistic at best, and woman-hating at worst.

However, the most egregious inaccuracy is Mr MacCarthaigh's statement that: "Men bring passion. Women bring reason." Two of the greatest firebrands of the current Dáil (if not the greatest) are Mary Lou McDonald and Clare Daly.

Leave the electorate to decide who they want to lead them, and let the electorate bear the consequences.

Killian Foley-Walsh. Kilkenny City

Irish Independent

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