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We Get What We Ask For: Towards a New Distributional Economics

My keynote at the Venturebeat Blueprint conference in Reno, NV on March 6, 2018. The bad maps that are holding us back from building a better world. Technology need not eliminate jobs. It could be helping us tackle the world's great problems, and helping design marketplaces that ensure a more equitable distribution of the proceeds from doing so. The narrative that goes with the deck is in the speaker notes. There is also a summary and link to the video at

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We Get What We Ask For: Towards a New Distributional Economics

  1. We Get What We Ask For: Towards a New Distributional Economics Tim O’Reilly @timoreilly Blueprint March 6, 2018
  2. Will there really be nothing left for people to do? Is there really nothing left for humans to do?
  3. Dealing with climate change Rebuilding our infrastructure Feeding the world Ending disease Resettling refugees Caring for each other Educating the next generation Enjoying the fruits of shared prosperity
  4. What is keeping us from working on stuff that matters?
  5. Our maps of the world can steer us wrong In 1625, we thought California was an island
  6. In 2018, we believe that it is technology that will put people out of work
  7. What happened when Amazon added 45,000 robots
  8. Do more. Do things that were previously impossible.
  9. Don’t replace people. Augment them!
  10. This is what technology wants “Prosperity in human societies is best understood as the accumulation of solutions to human problems. We won’t run out of work until we run out of problems.” Nick Hanauer
  11. The March of Progress
  12. We Need More Entrepreneurs Like Elon Musk
  13. In 2018, we still believe that it’s acceptable for companies to maximize their profits, regardless of the social, environmental and human consequences
  14. This is ever more dangerous
  15. We are all living and working inside a machine
  16. AI is “the most serious threat to the survival of the human race” Elon Musk
  17. The runaway objective function “Even robots with a seemingly benign task could indifferently harm us. ‘Let’s say you create a self-improving A.I. to pick strawberries,’ Musk said, ‘and it gets better and better at picking strawberries and picks more and more and it is self-improving, so all it really wants to do is pick strawberries. So then it would have all the world be strawberry fields. Strawberry fields forever.’ No room for human beings.” Elon Musk, quoted in Vanity Fair billion-dollar-crusade-to-stop-ai-space-x
  18. The Equinix NY4 data center, where trillions of dollars change hands
  19. We didn’t mean to increase inequality and gut our economy “The Social Responsibility of Business Is to Increase Its Profits” Milton Friedman, 1970
  20. Divergence of productivity and real median family income in the US
  21. There’s plenty to go around. It’s just not going around!
  22. In 2018, we are still trying to revive the old economy, rather than inventing the future that is possible now
  23. “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” The world of his grandchildren—the world of those of us living today— would, “for the first time . . . be faced with [mankind’s] real, his permanent problem—how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.” John Maynard Keynes John Maynard Keynes
  24. “If total US household income of $8.495 trillion were shared by America’s 116 million households, each would earn $73,000, enough for a decent middle- class life.” Brian Arthur
  25. The fundamental economic question is no longer how to incentivize production but how to incentivize fair distribution of the fruits of increased productivity Brian Arthur
  26. Creating a “thick marketplace” A platform like the World Wide Web, Google or Facebook, or a service like Uber or Lyft or Airbnb is a matching marketplace. Algorithms decide who gets what and why.
  27. What’s the Future? It’s Up To us
  28. Tim O’Reilly  Founder & CEO, O’Reilly Media  Partner, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures  Board member, Code for America  Co-founder, Maker Media @timoreilly • O’Reilly AI Conference • Strata: The Business of Data • JupyterCon • O’Reilly Open Source Summit • Maker Faire • Foo Camp • … • 40,000+ ebooks • Tens of thousands of hours of video training • Live training • Millions of customers • A platform for knowledge exchange • Commercial internet • Open source software • Web 2.0 • Maker movement • Government as a platform • AI and The Next Economy