Soffriamo per un attacco di pessimismo economico. (…) Abbiamo conosciuto un progresso tecnologico più rapido negli ultimi dieci anni che in tutta la storia precedente (…). La rapidità del cambiamento tecnico produce problemi difficili da risolvere. I Paesi che soffrono di più sono quelli che non sono all’avanguardia del progresso tecnico. Siamo colpiti da un nuovo malessere (…): la disoccupazione tecnologica. Una forma di disoccupazione causata dal fatto che scopriamo nuovi modi per risparmiare lavoro a una velocità superiore di quella alla quale scopriamo nuovi modi per impiegare il lavoro. Ma è soltanto un disallineamento temporaneo.
We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterised the nineteenth century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down – at any rate in Great Britain; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us. (...)
At the same time technical improvements in manufacture and transport have been proceeding at a greater rate in the last ten years than ever before in history. In the United States factory output per head was 40 per cent greater in 1925 than in 1919. In Europe we are held back by temporary obstacles, but even so it is safe to say that technical efficiency is increasing by more than 1 per cent per annum compound. There is evidence that the revolutionary technical changes, which have so far chiefly affected industry, may soon be attacking agriculture. We may be on the eve of improvements in the efficiency of food production as great as those which have already taken place in mining, manufacture, and transport. In quite a few years – in our own lifetimes I mean – we may be able to perform all the operations of agriculture, mining, and manufacture with a quarter of the human effort to which we have been accustomed.
For the moment the very rapidity of these changes is hurting us and bringing difficult problems to solve. Those countries are suffering relatively which are not in the vanguard of progress. We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come – namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour.
But this is only a temporary phase of maladjustment. All this means in the long run that mankind is solving its economic problem. I would predict that the standard of life in progressive countries one hundred years hence will be between four and eight times as high as it is to-day. There would be nothing surprising in this even in the light of our present knowledge. It would not be foolish to contemplate the possibility of a far greater progress still.
Keynes, John M. Possibilità Economiche per i Nostri Nipoti, 1930.