Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

The Bottom Line


The choices we make aren’t always as rational as we’d like them to be. One method to improve rationality is to examine potential consequences before the decision is made, before, as the Romans used to say, the die is cast. (A Roman: Julius Caesar.)

Business likes to think of itself as ultra-rational, basing all its decisions on what it likes to call The Bottom Line. That is, will this make a buck or not? These decisions are supported by innumerable numbers, charts, graphs, and presentations.

However, when the nitty meets the gritty, business people discover The Bottom Line is not fixed in stone. Rather, like most human goals, it can be very subjective. In most cases, it is so myopic it hides all but immediate consequences.

For example, a business whose complete and utter focus is impressive numbers (real or fictitious) for its quarterly report, is incapable of dealing with any other consequences of its actions.

Recently, I wrote three posts about how Digital (with a big D) was killing the economy, jobs, and the middle class. Of course, the Digital Revolution does none of this things by itself. These problems are the result of how business wields the big Digital.

For some, capitalism comes in only one flavor, the unfettered Free Market. But many economists (among others) have recognized for decades that the current form of capitalism actually should be called short-term capitalism.

If a single business wants to be robo-centric and not hire humans, it won’t noticeably affect the overall job market. True, but what would happen if they all did this? Where would the jobs come from to buy the products they want to make?

This is an example of reductio ad absurdum, a Latin phrase (from those same Romans mentioned in the opening paragraph). Yet, there is a point at which some number of businesses, if they side with the machine, will effectively destroy the job market.

This point will be reached long before the argument becomes absurd, and then the economy will collapse. Businesses may ignore the loss of jobs for their bottom line—but for how long?

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