Prediction Errors for the Information Age

Perhaps the best way to describe the flawed vision of fin de siecle futurists is to say that, with few exceptions, they expected the coming of an ''immaculate'' economy -- one in which people would be largely emancipated from any grubby involvement with the physical world. The future, everyone insisted, would bring an ''information economy'' that would mainly produce intangibles. The good jobs would go to ''symbolic analysts,'' who would push icons around on computer screens; knowledge, rather than traditional resources like oil or land, would become the primary source of wealth and power.

But even in 1996 it should have been obvious that this was silly. First, for all the talk about information, ultimately an economy must serve consumers -- and consumers want tangible goods. The billions of third-world families that finally began to have some purchasing power when the 20th century ended did not want to watch pretty graphics on the Internet. They wanted to live in nice houses, drive cars and eat meat.


Most important of all, the long-ago prophets of the information age seemed to have forgotten basic economics. When something becomes abundant, it also becomes cheap. A world awash in information is one in which information has very little market value. In general, when the economy becomes extremely good at doing something, that activity becomes less, rather than more, important. Late-20th-century America was supremely efficient at growing food; that was why it had hardly any farmers. Late-21st-century America is supremely efficient at processing routine information; that is why traditional white-collar workers have virtually disappeared.


Economists misunderstood the value of information and material goods in the information revolutions.

Folksonomies: economics futurism predictions

/technology and computing (0.524102)
/travel/transports/air travel/airfare (0.482691)
/automotive and vehicles/cars (0.356216)

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America:Continent (0.712720 (positive:0.578418))

20th century (0.966798): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Economics (0.878928): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Goods (0.739951): dbpedia
Future (0.608362): dbpedia | freebase
Debut albums (0.600943): dbpedia
Social sciences (0.591545): dbpedia | opencyc
Good (0.590455): dbpedia | freebase
Marginal utility (0.588335): dbpedia | freebase

 White Collars Turn Blue
Periodicals>Newsletter Article:  Krugman, Paul (September 29, 1996), White Collars Turn Blue, New York Times, Retrieved on 2013-06-14
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: futurism


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