back to article Technology is root of all evil, says IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has this month brought out its World Economic Outlook for 2007, and the various heavyweights of financial news have all had their bash at reporting on it. Normally, no vulture would stir on his/her perch over this type of thing - unless, perhaps, Paris Hilton had been implicated in some kind …

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  1. Risky
    Stop

    Relevance of Inequality

    I always find this talk of inequality a bit odd. MS suddenly announced that Visata sales have shot up and the shareprice doubles, Bill Gates will be a lot richer and inequality will have got worse. However the siutation of some poor soul in Darfur will be completely unchanged.

    Now easuring the ratio of income to cost of living would be morse usefull, but inequality is loved by the press and some areas of politics.

    Thus to reduces inequality we should promptly sieze the bulk of Bill Gates' and Warrent Buffet's wealth and give it away. That'll teach em, eh?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oxford-trained economics egghead

    Is that a typo? Surly it shold read Oxford-trained economics smakhead? Thats how much sence that makes. amanfromMars makes more sence than that guy.

    Or am I just being dumb, and we are better off making everyone equal, rather than raising the poorest out of poverty? Why should anyone care what the richest are eurning, as long as the poorest what they need to live. It may matter in places like the UK where housing presures mean that the richest are pushing most people out of the property market, but not in most of the world, where they need clean water, not room for housing.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They always were bonkers

    The IMF has always had a very narrow focus on what is good for the world. This essentially boils down to helping big corporations have an easier way to move their wares from their sweatshops to their markets in the North/West.

  4. Richard Williams
    Flame

    OK OK let's slow down here a minute

    OK, it's great to see that pop culture and marketing affect the IMF too, not just us mere mortal consumers. I'm sure I'm not the only person thinking that technology is not causing the gap. The only way that technology can cause that gap is because everyone believes they need a smartphone, four different consoles etc. Facilitating IT in developing countries has been happening for years and they seem to get by with email and an Office suite. Oh, actually isn't that what most companies in the 'developed' (haha) world use their computers for? It isn't technology that is the problem, it's the convincing us to feel we need the latest and greatest to generate massive profit (And this comes from someone in the UK where even we have to pay 60% more for our copies of Office than the US). I know so many people who go out and buy laptops with gaming graphics cards that whack the price up. Will they ever play games on it? No, of course not. It's for surfing the web and writing letters.

    It's no different to the cosmetics trade where they produce the best ever product then magically manage to come up with some even more outrageous ingredient to get ahead again. I mean, crushed pearls?! in a Shampoo?!! Their previous product worked great, according to their own adverts... They'll be putting grated iguana in next...

  5. 3x2

    He has a point

    "Restrict postgraduate education to the arts, humanities and the law. In fact, make postgraduate study in those fields compulsory."

    Who knew it was that simple. Just make more arts graduates and lawyers. Consider my paradigm well and truly shifted.

    Why am I reminded of the bit in Hitch Hikers Guide where all the useless tossers are busy freezing to death whilst coming up with a marketing angle for fire.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    True, but trivial

    "Yes, you read that right: technology - and not just the machinery, but people with tech skills - are to blame for the fact that some people are dirt poor and others disgustingly rich".

    Whereas without technology everyone would be dirt poor.

  7. Jason Baziliauskas
    Coat

    Lets take the IMF's toys away.

    If the IMF think that technology is the problem lets take it all away from them and let them lead by example. I suggest they first remove all the flushing toilets in their headquarters followed by the computers and see how long they last.

  8. Tim Croydon
    Thumb Down

    What about healthcare?

    You could consider health in the same light, e.g.:

    "Healthcare is better in the West than in many developing countries, so I propose the abolition of training for doctors and research into medicines to even things up a bit."

    What a muppet.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Dismal Science

    Carlyle referred to economics as "the dismal science" back in the 1840s.

    Anything changed since then?

  10. Stig

    Return to basics! (for everyone else - of course)

    Perhaps the IMF report writers could dispense with their PCs, rescind their degrees and their highly paid jobs and return to a simpler 'more egalitarian' lifestyle to recompose their report with quill and parchment (from a now more empathetic angle).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now that's rich...

    Bankers accusing another industry of being the 'root of all evil'

  12. Jody
    Go

    Technology does lead to inequality.

    In 1700, all the countries in the world were broadly equal in terms of wealth. In 2007, there were great disparities between countries. What happened between 1700 and 2007? The industrial revolution, which is to say, the application of technology. This enabled trade, globalisation, mass education, which in turn encouraged more technological progress.

    Clearly there are other influences too: politics can stifle a country's potential (think of China before 1980). But technology is the main cause of the wealth gap. In a way this is positive though: technology has allowed humans to climb out of poverty. Europeans were just lucky enough to do so first. In a century or two, perhaps the all world will be equally rich, as the fruits of this progress spread across the globe.

  13. Jody
    Go

    Technology does lead to inequality.

    In 1700, all the countries in the world were broadly equal in terms of wealth. In 2007, there were great disparities between countries. What happened between 1700 and 2007? The industrial revolution, which is to say, the application of technology. This enabled trade, globalisation, mass education, which in turn encouraged more technological progress.

    Clearly there are other influences too: politics can stifle a country's potential (think of China before 1980). But technology is the main cause of the wealth gap. In a way this is positive though: technology has allowed humans to climb out of poverty. Europeans were just lucky enough to do so first. In a century or two, perhaps the all world will be equally rich, as the fruits of this progress spread across the globe.

  14. Chris Purcell

    Apparently sarcasm is only allowed on the Register

    Because when an FT writer uses it, people take him literally and mock him.

    Jeez.

  15. Keith Turner
    Unhappy

    pots, kettles

    Where does the money that the IMF has come from?

    What produces huge returns on investment?

    How have all these rich folks at the IMF got rich and how do they rapidly update their portfolios?

    Ah yes -- technology.

    Are they saying "We've filled our boots with profits from you lot. Now we're comfy we'll put a stop to it all. Can't have the poor people getting techy stuff, they'll only start sending reports from sweatshops and ruin our profits."

    "How can you tell it's the king?"

    "He's the only one not covered in shit like the rest of us!"

  16. Alistair Wall

    whoosh

    "Let us agree that reducing inequality is the overriding goal ..."

    Anyone with a classical education would recognise this as hypobole.

  17. Dafydd Lawrence

    Pol Pot tried it

    Similar thinking to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. A true Agarian society was the aim. Anyone with intelligence, real or perceived, was executed. Millions lost their lives.

    Just goes to show that even here there are little Pol Pot's waiting in the shadows - there ideas might not be as sinister at the moment, like Pol Pot's weren't, but give them power and who knows?

    PS. Jody - Check your history!

  18. Adam Richardson
    Dead Vulture

    El Reg looses it

    The Register spends its time with sarcastic put downs and ironic observations. It's a shame it can't see other people's sarcasm when it smacks you in the face!

    "It's always possible that the man [Clive Crook] is merely being comical in some leaden economist fashion"

    Um, duh! Yeah, just maybe.

    What's revealing is that Clive's making jokes while El Reg is have a hysterical fit worthy of a true Red Top. (Hint: maybe, just maybe, you've misunderstood what the IMF authors actually wrote.)

  19. Matthew Smith
    Unhappy

    Did the author actually read the IMF report?

    The IMF report simply says that inequality is caused by technological innovation. That is all, which no one can argue with. It also goes on to say:

    'contrary to popular belief, increased trade globalization is associated with a decline in inequality.'

    and:

    'Technology, foreign direct investment, and financial development continue to be important to support overall growth and raise average incomes.'

    So it has no problem with some people being richer than others, as long as the poor get richer too. Bravo for the IMF. I can't find anything here which suggests that the rich are stealing from the poor, as the Register article suggests.

    The FT, however, are a bunch of fools.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    Sense of humour failure

    "It's always possible that the man is merely being comical in some leaden economist fashion."

    The man is obviously making a satirical point and i'm amazed that not only the Register missed it but also that no other commenter has picked up on it. Is it still too early in the morning for humour?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wow

    I'm in awe.

    Basically this guy wants everyone to go back to living in huts hunting for food. I expect to see a book, no a series of books.

    O and sorry world I don't give a toss about Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia or for that matter more or less anybody else, there's me, my mates and my family everything else is just gravy.

    I like my internet, my cheap tv, my games systems, my imported food. I like living in a house made out of brick with my central heating and my double glazing. I like my mobile phone and ability to chat to people around the world, I like my online games and my beer. I'd prefer it if there were decent arcades again at reasonable price and with cool games (tohou please.)

    Anyway all the guy is saying is that technological difference makes one side rich and the others not - well no shit sherlock, you get the captain fucking obvious award.

    "Oxford-trained economics egghead" I think should read "Oxford-trained economics dickhead"

  22. Karl H

    what can we do to address this inequality.

    <sarcasm>

    I suppose we could ban the use of the wheel, and burn anyone at the stake who tries to use a wheel. Oh I forgot , we'd have banned the use of fire , so we couldn't burn any techno-heretics at the stake.

    After which we could ban the use of language and we could all go "UG" and throw sticks and stones at one another....

    </sarcasm>

    re "Clive Crook" is there a clue in his name ? is he being sarcastic ? and when in the early parts of recinding all technological progress how the hell is he going to get his views to a world without Town Criers ? (let alone the internet)

    Anyway it's good to see that Oxford is producing some brain-dead retards amongst it's undoubted crop of brilliant people that help humanity progress, otherwise who would we take the mickey out of ?

  23. William Donelson
    Stop

    Enabling technologies misused

    Technology is and ACCELERATOR and MULTIPLIER of Human Behaviour and Aspirations.

    If 1% of your population have bad or anti-social aspirations, then technology MULTIPLIES that !

    History is rife with examples of enabling technologies being misused.

    For example:

    Handguns and small arms. The world is MUCH more dangerous now that these technologies are in widespread use. 14 year-olds in Africa with assault weapons? No wonder many place in Africa are so unstable.

    Cellphones: Now used in controlling IEDs and to coordinate anti-social behaviour and terrorism.

    Nuclear chemicals: too horrible to consider.

    It's like that old saying, "Guns don't kill people. People kill people."

    -- YES, it's just that guns make it So Much Easier !

    WIthout education and social tolerance, society breaks down. And technology speeds that process up, for good or evil.

  24. Nick Palmer
    Thumb Down

    @Chris Purcell, Alistair Wall et al

    Well said. Lewis (and some of the more hydrophobic commenters), grow a sense of humour and learn to spot when another journalist is indulging in satire that, not to put too fine a point on it, is rather less "leaden" than a lot of the stuff which gets hailed here as some sort of Wilde-ian genius. What Crook's written is damned funny, in exactly the same way as "A Modest Proposal" was funny. It's not Crook's problem that you've had a humourectomy.

  25. David Evans

    @Jody

    "In 1700, all the countries in the world were broadly equal in terms of wealth" Sorry, this is just nonsense; mercantilist countries like England and Holland were already outstripping everyone else by this point, with the exception of Spain, which had a lock on most of the world's Silver and was fabulously rich compared to everyone else (even if the English and Dutch were nicking a lot of it), all without an industrial revolution. More to the point, inequality WITHIN countries was, as the article says, worse than it is now. Developed countries have always had the super-rich, but proportionately, the super-rich of today are not as far beyond the rest of us as the old monied classes in pre-industrial times, and that's almost entirely THANKS to technology.

  26. David Paul Morgan
    Boffin

    Is this a joke?

    no, seriously, is this a joke?

  27. A J Stiles
    Flame

    First Industrial Revolution and Abolition of Slavery

    I suppose Clive Crook and his artsy friends also think that the reason why slavery was abolished was because white people just decided all of a sudden to stop being so nasty to black people -- and a chap by the name of James Watt had absolutely nothing to do with it?

    Get real. Slave labour simply wasn't economically viable when compared to machines that worked 24 hours a day, ate coal, never answered back and could be persuaded to work with a blow from a hammer and a dollop of grease.

    The only reason that former slaves were emancipated rather than culled and used as engine fuel is that they had too poor a calorific value. Look at what's happening in the world now that machines are getting more expensive to run than humans .....

  28. Steve
    Thumb Up

    It's true though

    The point is probably true, technology has increased the disparity.

    What isn't correct is that being equal is a higher aim than lifting the lower boundary.

    The disparity may be higher today, but the majority of people are better off in every measurable way than they were 400 years ago.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Sarcasm anyone?

    Congratulations to everyone who failed to recognise the tone of the FT article.

    And a big well-done for completely missing the point of the IMF report- which actually highlights the need to strengthen education and training and for further trade liberalisation by removing restrictions on agricutural exports from developing countries.

  30. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo

    Back to basics

    I've swapped my tablet for a chalk board to try and do my bit for equality, I suggest you all do something similar.

  31. John Miles
    Unhappy

    I am sure someone said the same

    about Stone Axes, Bronze & Iron when they become the leading technologies of their days

    I wonder if the quoted IMF expert(s) have been to a third world country and watched the resources being plundered by the first world, or the wars persecuted by the supply of arms from the first world

  32. Robert Harrison

    It sure would be nice...

    ..if the people in so called 'third world' countries were actually able to afford their own produce instead of being forced to match our prices because there is far more profit to be had selling it to rich Western countries.

    And while we're at it the last I heard, money was the root of all evil, so the saying goes. Yes I appreciate that the original article may have been waving the sarcasm flag but its a bit of a sore point nonetheless coming from the IMF a.k.a. Large American Banks.

  33. Robert Ramsay

    YES IT'S A JOKE

    That is all, thank you.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Joke

    In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king....

    ...so we should poke everyone's eyes out.

    *I've added the joke alert icon, because of the evident risk that some people may take that seriously and poke eyes out, don't do that it will hurt.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    First...

    ...yes, it's a joke. My sarcasm detector went off the scale after the first three quoted words. Live by the sword and die by it, eh Reg? If you're going to call the Sun on going off half-cocked due to misreading things, better make damned sure you're not going to do it yourself!

    Second, to the guy who wrote, "Thus to reduces inequality we should promptly sieze the bulk of Bill Gates' and Warrent Buffet's wealth and give it away. That'll teach em, eh?" - it's too late. They've already done it themselves...

  36. getafix
    Unhappy

    The funny thing about inequality...

    ...is that rich people always think that it isn't a problem, whereas poor people always think that it is a problem.

    The real problem here is that technology has enabled some people in some countries to get very wealthy indeed, but that other people without access to technology have stayed poor. Now that's a problem.

  37. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Mars

    @YES IT'S A JOKE

    The comments on the joke are no joke though, Robert Ramsay.

    The emperor is naked ...... and found to be a eunuch masquerading as a pusher pimping vapourware or if you prefer, a fraud of a jumped up drag queen playing God badly.

    Peers Report ..... Could do Better, Should do Beta, Judgement Reserved ....Awaiting ITs Reports.

    Now, who let the dogs out....... the Mr Angry Mob?

    Of course, there is always the possibility that IT could be spun that there is AI NeuReal World Order InterNetworking and Breaking Cover 42 Establish Stabilising Global Money Controls with Old Established Controllers, whom one could not reasonably expect to be Au Fait with Virtualising Technologies and Quantum Communications Packaging of Bits and Bytes ......... HyperVisionary Queued Streaming of AI Beta Semantic MetaDataMined Source in Temporal Sensitive Binary Codes.

    Which is a lot better than sticking your heads in the sands or where the Sun doesn't shine, hoping and praying that IT goes away.

    It hasn't gone away, you know, now that IT has landed/launched ITself, Maslowian Syle, into Free CyberSpace for AI Virtual Peace Process with a QuITe UniVersal Force.

    The Apple and Eve that's so Tempting to Adams?

    In the Beginning, there was always Viable Imagination to Build Vision upon..... Just Imagine, and IT's True.

  38. John
    Happy

    Lets take this seriously.....

    .....and all promise not to buy Vista until Sudan has the GDP of Japan

  39. Luther Blissett

    Wealth inequality - IMF says a big boy did it, and then he ran away

    You could hardly expect the IMF to be announcing that its policies are the cause of evil. That would be like turkeys claiming they were causing Xmas. Or reports that rock stars with private equity investments have benefitted Africa.

    The first thing to be done is eliminate the subsidy that the US (primarily) is giving its agricultural (often GM-laden) exports into developing countries. Unless of course they think HD TVs might distract them better from their hunger.

    Pot-boiled oxford economist anyone? Or how about roasted? Free range. Well fed at public expense. Etc.

  40. amanfromMars Silver badge

    Tag Higher? Why....whenever Enough is QuITe Enough?

    If you know exactly what you are doing, like Love, IT will Grow.

    The problem is surely when wealth is not spent, getafix, and even worse whenever it is arbitrarily written off........ and invariably just to save embarrassment? Or would that be a cover-up exercise to maintain and perpetuate a monstrous charade. When money isn't Real ie Virtualised, IT makes Money .....Honest. Ask anybody who knows.

    With seven sevens written off into an Alien Account would C42 Quantum Control Systems Energise Virtual Space for NeuReality? That's Peanuts in the Great Game of Everything, methinks, whenever so much more is Lost doing nothing but Creating Havoc 42 Waste in and with Wastes of Space........ former Useful Idiots...Oxymorons? .

    And you can take that as seriously as you Care 42 Dare/Dare 42 Care. It is an Open Secret

  41. Leigh Anthony Silver badge
    Flame

    maybe not the root of all evil but...

    Ok, I haven't read the article. However, as someone mentioned, IT is an accelerator and a multiplier of the status quo. This in itself, modifies the environment.

    1. the cross-licensing of "intellectual property" - i.e. ideas. You can't use any ideas we thought of first, even if you came up with it on your own. If you try to, the WTO will come and get you. Plus, we have given ourselves ludicrously long lifetimes on the monopolies on ideas that we have given ourselves. So you can invent and build your product, but you can't sell it into an area with people who have money to buy it, because any product you build probably utilises an idea we've already patented.

    2. IT and electronic communications have enabled globalisation. With globalisation comes very large markets and volume of goods being sold by the market leaders. With large volumes comes the impetus to cut the unit costs as a small unit reduction adds up to a large total reduction. This is where we get companies breaking the law, using sweatshops, genetically modifying tomatos to make them look ripe when they aren't, compromising on safety (of employees or products), or playing pitifully poor suppliers against each other. Let face it - if you are earning $1.40/day and someone tells you your income will drop to zero unless you accept $1.20/day because someone else has offered to work for $1.30/day, you'll do it or starve - maybe both.

    As volumes increase, each additional unit of supply (suppliers) or demand (product/customer) becomes relatively less important to the company.

    I'm not saying you can put the globalisation genie back in the bottle, or that it would be helpful to try to do that, but we do have to recognise what sort of environment we have helped to create. The next time the issue of fair trade comes up, remember that we have not created a world where everyone gets the same chance and in our financial planning, a little noblesse oblige rather than insisting on our rights is probably in order.

    It isn't money that is the root of all evil, its the *love* of money.

  42. Brian Miller

    Captain Obvious time: You get paid for what's in demand

    Hello!!! Isn't it obvious that you get paid more when your skill are in demand? Isn't that obvious?

    The actual IMF report isn't all that eye-opening. Yes, there is inequality in incomes. Yes, the rich have grown richer, and the report also says that the poor have also grown richer! And the rich, by and large, got rich through shrewd actions, instead of wasting their money. I remember there was an article in the paper about a homeless guy who became a millionaire. How? While he was homeless, he went into the library and started reading the financial investment books. Then he took his beggings and invested it! Lo and behold, a number of years down the road his investments rose to over a million dollars.

    There is nothing in the IMF report about everybody becoming a ditch-digger to even things out. Looking at the last paragraph, they say that there needs to be more education and more exports. Well, duh, dudes! My dad was a librarian, and I'm a software engineer. Guess who gets paid more? I hope that other countries take education seriously, and build up a cadre of people with respectable skills. It will do the whole world good.

  43. Curtis W. Rendon
    Black Helicopters

    Shakespeare was on the right track

    First we shoot the economists, then the lawyers.

    And looking at the wonderful load of contaminated food we are receiving in the states, I am of a mind to increase our farmer's subsidies...

  44. PT

    The IMF is just channeling Greenspan

    I mean, seriously - banker types pretending to be interested in equality? isn't that, like, communism or something? Crook's sarcasm has got it exactly right - their idea of equality is cutting everyone down to the level of the unskilled. The reason, obviously, being that envy of the skilled leads to inflationary wage pressures. The former Chairman actually put it in black and white in his recent memoir "The Age of Turbulence". I quote - "...by opening our borders to large numbers of highly skilled immigrant workers, we would both enhance the skill level of the overall workforce and provide a new source of competition for higher-earning employees, THUS DRIVING DOWN THEIR WAGES". (my caps)

    I'm really surprised this has been overlooked by the US technical community. I'd have thought it would provoke a torch-wielding mob marching on the Federal Reserve.

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