Shiller Weighs In On The Robot Revolution And Human Fear

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According to Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller, current negative bond yields are at least partly related to deep-seated fears all human beings share about technology and the rate of technological change.

Shiller was interviewed on CNBC on Wednesday, January 28th, and he noted: “I think fears have been growing for years that represent the willingness of people to bid up bond prices.” He continued to say: “They are worried about their future. They are worried not just about next year, they are worried about the next twenty years, the next forty years. So they are desperately trying to provide for that, they’ll even accept negative yields.”

Shiller received the Nobel prize for economics in October 2013 for research relating to the forecasting of long-term asset prices, which helped with the creation of index funds in stock markets. He shared the 8 million crown ($1.25 million) prize with economists Eugene Fama and Lars Peter Hansen.

Recent Davos event helped Shiller understand the dynamic

Shiller commented that his recent trip to Davos had helped him understand the current dynamic. “There’s this increasing fear of technology, information technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, 3-D printers, the internet and all these different forms.” Technology, he added “seems to be changing life in such a fundamental way and what it’s leaving people thinking is ‘where will I be in 30 years? Look how fast everything is changing now. Where will my children be? I want to leave something for them because they could be in terrible straits’.”

Shiller added that Davos allowed him to see that most wealthy people are just trying to make sure they are in the top 1 percent of global earners. “This is desperation for many people,” he said. “The problem now is we are going through a technological revolution, unlike any in history because we seem to be getting right to core abilities that people have, that’s the ability to think, to know.”

Response to Shiller

In a response to Shiller’s comments, Edmund Shing, the global equity portfolio manager at BCS Asset Management, said that he wonders whether the world is really undergoing a second industrial revolution or rather a technological revolution. He voiced a concerns about deflationary pressures and that a whole class of jobs could disappear.

“You (might not) see any more wage increases because of the pressure from technology,” Shing said.

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