Friday, December 05, 2003

Brad DeLong on Nanotechnology

When Brad DeLong isn't defending Paul Krugman from (IMHO justified) accusations of shrillness, he can be very, very insightful indeed. This particular post goes to show just why it is his site is one of my daily must-reads:

A Framework for the Economic Analysis of Technological Revolutions, with an Application to Nanotechnology

J. Bradford DeLong

U.C. Berkeley

Let me simply assert that a fruitful way to analyze the social and
economic impact of every technological revolution that has taken place
over the past two and a half centuries is to seek the answers to four
different questions, and then to draw out the implications of those
answers:

  • What commodities--what goods and services--become extraordinarily cheap as a result of the technological revolution?

  • What human activities--what jobs and skills--become key bottlenecks, and thus become remarkably valuable and well-paid?

  • What risks blindside the society as the technology spreads?

  • What risks do people guard against that turn out not to be risks at all?

These are the four questions.

I haven't attempted to excerpt more than the introductory bit of his post here, because I don't think there's any way in which I could do it justice by doing so. I highly recommend that the piece be read in full - extremely thought-provoking stuff.