My talk at Jane St. Capital

For this splendid audience, I considered six scenarios for how the long-run might drastically differ from the world we see before our eyes:

1. A return to Malthus, noting that wages cannot forever exceed the marginal cost of producing labor.  Perhaps we are in for a massive population increase, if only of robots.

2. Robin Hanson’s exponential growth, which means a huge burst of growth sometime "soon" — maybe really good drugs, uploads, or nanotechnology?

3. Most of the economy becomes health care costs.

4. Energy becomes very cheap, destruction is easy, deterrence is difficult, power decentralizes, and we retreat to medieval-style fortresses.

5. People become more and more interested in "vivid" experiences, such as they obtain in museums, going to date movies, or spending lots on higher education.  This sounds so lame, but it’s pretty close to reality now.

6. Wealthier economies boost human optimism and thus asset markets become increasingly vulnerable to bubbles.

#4 is pessimistic, I am not sure the others are, at least not in the proper "all things considered" sense.  If #1 is on its way, make sure you own some capital (as Robin Hanson points out), you will be very wealthy then.  Your evaluation of #1 may depend on your view of Derek Parfit’s population conundrums.  There will be lots of rich people and also lots of poor people.

Over dinner I pressed the claim that very few people or organizations are capable of stating what they are actually good at.


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