The future of the economy, in bite-sized chunks.

I’m stuck waiting for some programs to execute, so now seems like a good time to set down my theory of what the economy of the future is going to look like.

“Whoa, George, that sounds like a big task” says the imaginary critical imp on my shoulder. “Why would you want to do that, especially since much of what you say will turn out to be wrong?”

Well, critical imp, I’m glad you asked. There are two reasons I want to do this:

  1. A recent TED talk has convinced me that it’s important to compellingly and concisely explain to the people around me why I’m doing the things I’m doing with my life. So if you know me and you’re curious, you should find most of the answer here.

  2. Despite being a 26-year-old ignoramus, I think I actually have something interesting and useful to say about this topic.

So here begins a sporadic series of posts, each totaling 400 words or fewer, that will explain my vision of whither and whence the economy is going and why. It’s impossible to adequately treat this topic in anything close to 400 words, so I will modularize my thoughts into semi-self-standing blocks that should eventually build a lovely abstract castle.

Here’s a preview (highly subject to change):

  1. The economy is everything around us, added up. “Growth” basically just means there’s more stuff. Total stuff / number of people = average individual wealth.

  2. In the long run, income growth is just productivity growth. Tautologically, everything man-made must be created. When we can make more, we can have more.

  3. Productive process are algorithms. Algorithms (loosely speaking) are just recipes for achieving outcomes in the world. Productivity can be improved either by executing an algorithm faster, or by selecting a more efficient algorithm (“work smarter, not harder”)

  4. Computers allow people to outsource both execution and selection of algorithms (I call this “Cognitive Augmentation”, or “CogAug”)

  5. Execution-based CogAug is tied to processing speed which is (effectively) anchored to Moore’s law, but algorithmic selection can improve without bound (…or can it?).

  6. Ergo, selection-based CogAug is the next great frontier or economic development, because better CogAug–>better algorithms–>greater productivity–>greater per capita wealth.

  7. The first step on that path to selection-based CogAug is structured “semantic” data.

Sound cryptic, confusing, or wrong? Then tune in next time.