木工雕刻机 | 2021-05-14
本文摘要:I’m writing these words in York, the city in which, two centuries ago, the British justice system meted out harsh punishments — including execution — to men found guilty of participating in Luddite attacks on spinning and weaving machines. By a curious coincidence, I’ve just read Walter Isaacson’s article in the FT explaining how wrong-headed the Luddites were. I’m not so sure.这篇文章是我在约克写的。


I’m writing these words in York, the city in which, two centuries ago, the British justice system meted out harsh punishments — including execution — to men found guilty of participating in Luddite attacks on spinning and weaving machines. By a curious coincidence, I’ve just read Walter Isaacson’s article in the FT explaining how wrong-headed the Luddites were. I’m not so sure.这篇文章是我在约克写的。两个世纪以前,在这座城市,英国司法系统对砸毁纺纱机和编织机的卢德分子(卢德(Luddite)是19世纪初砸毁机器的英国手工业者——译者录)判处严苛惩罚——还包括极刑。因为一个怪异的凑巧,我刚读者了沃尔特艾萨克森(Walter Isaacson)在英国《金融时报》上公开发表的文章,他在文中说明了卢德分子的观念如何错误。

我回应不是很认同。“Back then, some believed technology would create unemployment,” writes Isaacson. “They were wrong.”“当时,一些人指出技术不会导致失业,”艾萨克森写到,“他们拢了。”No doubt such befuddled people did exist, and they still do today. But this is a straw man: we can all see, as Isaacson does, that technology has made us richer while employment is as high as ever. (The least appreciated job-creating invention may well have been the washing machine, which helped turn housewives into women with salaries.)毫无疑问,当时显然不存在这样的糊涂人,今天也一样。但这是显而易见的:就像艾萨克森那样,我们都能看见,技术让我们更加富裕,同时低收入也维持在高水平。

(在建构低收入的发明者中,洗衣机大约是最未不受器重的一项,它使家庭主妇需要沦为领薪水的职业女性。)The Luddites themselves had a more subtle view than Isaacson suggests, and one which is as relevant as ever. They believed that the machines were altering economic power in the textile industry, favouring factory owners and low-skilled labourers at the expense of skilled craftsmen. They wanted to defend their interests and they did so violently. As the historian Eric Hobsbawm put it, their frame-breaking activity was “collective bargaining by riot” and “simply a technique of trade unionism” in the days before formal unions existed.卢德分子的观点比艾萨克森叙述的更为细致,也一如既往地涉及。

他们坚信,机器转变了纺织业的经济实力格局,让工厂主和较低技能劳动者获益,壮烈牺牲了技术娴熟的手工艺人。他们想保卫自己的利益,并为此采行了暴力的方式。就如历史学家埃里克霍布斯鲍姆(Eric Hobsbawm)所说的,他们超越既定模式的行动相等于“通过骚乱形式展开的集体谈判”,相等于月公会经常出现之前的“工会主义手法”。

To put it another way, the Luddites weren’t idiots who thought that machines would destroy jobs in general; they were skilled workers who thought that machines would devalue their specific jobs and their specific skills. They were right about that, and sufficiently determined that stopping them required more than 10,000 troops at a time when the British army might have preferred to focus on Napoleon.换言之卢德分子并不是指出机器不会从总体上毁坏低收入的傻子;他们是一群技术熟练工,指出机器不会使他们的特定工作和技能升值。在这一点上,他们是对的,而且享有充足强劲的决意,以至于在应当全力与拿破仑战斗的时期,英国调派了多达1万陆军兵力制止这些卢德分子。

The Luddite anxiety has been dormant for many years but has recently enjoyed a resurgence. This is partly because journalists fear for their own jobs. Technological change has hit us in several ways — by moving attention online, where (so far) it is harder to charge money for subscriptions or advertising; by empowering unpaid writers to reach a large audience through blogging; and even by introducing robo-hacks, algorithms that can and do extract data from corporate reports and turn them into financial journalism written in plain(ish) English. No wonder human journalists have started writing about the economic damage the robots may wreak.多年以来,勒德为首的情绪仍然潜伏着,但最近这种情绪卷土重来。部分原因是记者们担忧自己的工作。

技术变革以好几种方式冲击着我们——把人们的注意力移到线上,增大了(到目前为止)对订阅者收费或者销售广告的可玩性;让无薪的作者通过博客认识到大批读者;甚至还有机器人专栏作家——用算法从公司报告中提取数据,转化成用(基本上)隐晦的英语编写的财经新闻。不该记者们已开始编写关于机器人有可能导致经济伤害的报导。Another reason for the robo-panic is concern about the economic situation in general. Bored of blaming bankers, we blame robots too, and not entirely without reason. Inequality has risen sharply over the past 30 years. Many economists believe that this is partly because technological change has favoured a few highly skilled workers (and perhaps also more mundane trades such as cleaning) at the expense of the middle classes.机器人混乱情绪的另一个原因是对整体经济形势的忧虑。我们厌烦了责备银行家,现在我们也责备机器人,而且并非仅有无道理。

过去30年间,不公平程度急遽下降。许多经济学家指出,部分原因是技术变革指责少数高技能员工(有可能也不利于某些较为憧憬的职业,比如洗手工作),而壮烈牺牲了中产阶级的利益。Finally, there is the observation that computers continue to develop at an exponential pace and are starting to make inroads in hitherto unexpected places — witness the self-driving car, voice-activated personal assistants and automated language translation. It is a long way from the spinning jenny to Siri.最后,人们也注意到计算机持续以指数级速度发展,开始转入此前意想不到的领域——自动驾驶汽车、声控个人助理和自动语言翻译成就是相比较。

从珍妮纺纱机到Siri,科技获得了长足进展。What are we to make of all this? One view is that this is business as usual. We’ve had dramatic technological change for the past 300 years but it’s fine: we adapt, we still have jobs, we are incomparably richer — and the big headache of modernity isn’t unemployment but climate change.我们该从这一切得出结论什么结论?一个观点是:这是一种常态。过去300年来我们经历了极大的技术变革,没有出有什么问题:我们适应环境了,我们仍然有工作,还比以前富裕得多——现代世界的大问题并不是失业,而是气候变化。

A second view is that this time is radically different: the robots will, before long, render many people economically valueless — simply incapable of earning a living wage in a market economy. There will be plenty of money around but it will flow to the owners of the machines, and maybe also to the government through taxation. In principle, all could be well in such a future but it would require a radical reimagining of how an economy could work. The state, not the market, would be the arbiter of who gets what. Such a world is probably not imminent but, by 2050, who knows?第二种观点是,这一次是截然不同的:不久以后,机器人不会使许多人丧失经济价值——无法在市场经济中挣到不足以为生的工资。不会有大量资金流通,但这些财富不会流向机器的所有者,或者同时通过征收流向政府。


这样的世界也许会迅速来临,但是,谁告诉到了2050年会怎样呢?......The third perspective is what we might call the neo-Luddite view: that technology may not destroy jobs in aggregate but rather changes the demand for skills in ways that are real and troubling. Median incomes in the US have been stagnant for decades. There are many explanations for that, including globalisation and the decline of collective bargaining, but technological change is foremost among them.第三种观点可以被称作新的卢德为首观点:技术有可能会在总量上避免工作岗位,但技术导致的技能市场需求变化将是现实不存在且令人不安的。数十年来美国的中值收益仍然原地踏步。回应有很多种说明,还包括全球化以及集体谈判的衰败,但技术变革是最重要的一种说明。If the neo-Luddites are right, then the challenge in front of us is simply to adapt. Individual workers, companies and the political system will have to deal with wrenching economic changes as old industries are destroyed and new ones created. That seems a plausible view of the near future.如果新的卢德为首是对的,那么我们面前的挑战就是去适应环境它。


员工个人、企业和政治体制必须应付伤痛的经济变化,原有的行业被出局,新的行业应运而生。这或许是对近期未来的一种可靠观点。But there is a final perspective that doesn’t get as much attention as it might: it’s that technological change is too slow, not too fast. The robo-booster theory implies a short-term surge in jobs, as all those lovely new machines are designed and built and installed, followed by a long-term surge in productivity as the robots make the economy ruthlessly efficient. It is hard to see much sign of either trend in the economic statistics. Productivity, in particular, has been disappointing in the US and utterly dismal in the UK. Where are the robots when we need them?但还有最后一种观点或许没获得过于多的注目:那就是技术变革太快,而非太快。


当我们必须机器人的时候,它们在哪?Tim Harford is the author of ‘The Undercover Economist Strikes Back’.。