CITP Luncheon Speaker Series:CITP Luncheon Series
Seth Goldstein – Technological Progress:
Its Impact on Work, Play, and Human Dignity
No RSVP required for current Princeton faculty, staff, and students. Open to members of the public by invitation only. Please contact Jean Butcher at if you are interested in attending a particular lunch.
Advances in technology are quickly leading to levels of productivity that will qualitatively
change the structure of society. This talk will touch on various technology
trends, their potential impact on employment, and possible approaches to living in a
society where a significant proportion of the population will be able to pursue their
Past technology revolutions (TRs) have changed the nature of human intercourse,
created new economic systems, created new kinds of jobs, and caused significant
short-lived disruption. They did not, however, change the basic fact that
most everyone had to work for their daily bread (even if at different kinds of jobs
requiring different kinds of training). The result was a substantial improvement in
the economic welfare for every segment of society. Today’s technology revolution,
TR3, will be similar with one exception: most people will no longer have to toil for
The key features that make’s TR3 different from previous TRs are: exponential
growth, scalability, and distributedness. The talk will show how the technology in
information processing, manufacturing, and energy are changing the labor market
by replacing labor, eliminating jobs, enhancing labor, and by creating new jobs.
Our new model for labor suggests that it will be hard to observe the impact of
technological progress until a critical point is reached, at which time unemployment
rates will climb swiftly. The resulting society will have fewer and fewer people who
need (or are even allowed) to work, resulting in more ”free time” then we have ever
experienced before. This will lead to two existential problems for a large swath
of humanity: an economic problem—how to acquire the physical necessities for
life—and a psychological problem—how to find meaning and dignity in life apart
from one’s vocation.
The talk will conclude by describing a new monetary system based on a reputation
enhancing currency which simultaneously addresses the two existential questions
created for those disenfranchised from the labor market by TR3. First, it could
redistribute income/wealth in a bottom-up manner. Second, it could enable the creation
of activities, engagement, motivation, and satisfaction for those individuals
who will no longer be employed in a “normal” job.
Seth Copen Goldstein is an associate professor of computer science at Carnegie
Mellon University. He received his Ph.D. in Computer Science at the University
of California at Berkeley in 1997. In 1994 he completed his M.S. in Computer
Science at the same institution. His undergraduate work was undertaken at Princeton
University in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Before attending UC Berkeley, Seth was CEO and founder of Complete Computer
Corporation which developed and marketed object-oriented programming tools.
Seth’s main research agenda focuses broadly on ensembles: large collections
of interacting agents. In the area of reconfigurable computing he investigated how
to compile high-level programming languages directly into configurations which
could harness the large ensemble of gates for computing. He then began investigating
how ensembles of molecules could be used to create circuits; investigating how
to design, manufacture, and use molecular-scale devices for computing. This led to
research into programmable matter; an ensemble of computing elements which can
be programmed to work together to produce changes in the physical properties of
Since returning from his start-up, he has moved his focus to ensembles of people
and is investigating the interaction of technology, work, and money. In particular he
is interested in understanding, quantitatively, the impact of technological progress
on the labor market and innovation. He is developing alternative monetary systems
that can support innovation and creativity in a post-labor economy.