Pro Macro: Robots Are Demographics

Published on: October 28th, 2022

Most developed – and even developing markets – are going off a demographic cliff. Geopolitically induced re-onshoring will lean on technological advances. Robots are the future of productive labour. The next phase will be the golden one. Revisit Futurism for darker long-term outcomes.


  • MB
    Michael B.
    28 October 2022 @ 17:03
    Really interesting article, especially coupled with Raoul's interview with Emad Mostaque. I have been invested in the UK listed version of the ROBO ETF (ROBG) for some time and am also looking at the other two L&G ETFs that focus more directly on AI and robotics/AI in healthcare
    • DH
      David H.
      28 October 2022 @ 17:30
      I would like to see discussion of the various public investment opportunities to benefit from these developments.
  • JM
    Jake M.
    28 October 2022 @ 19:18
    where can we find this ROBO index?
    • EM
      Elijah M.
      29 October 2022 @ 03:52
      Hi Jake, Doing my own searching found which I believe is it.
  • TW
    Tim W.
    28 October 2022 @ 19:46
    Raoul - Undoubtedly spot on overall in terms of extremely high rates of development & adoption, as well as their inevitability. I wonder however, to what extent the Zeihan-esque reduction in globalization underway will cap said observed rates, which arguably are the result of a pre-COVID/pre-Ukraine world? Intuitively, it would seem there will be a large impact, the magnitude of which would be of interest. Yet it might also be accelerative in some ways?
  • JR
    Josh R.
    28 October 2022 @ 21:29
  • JH
    Joseph H.
    28 October 2022 @ 21:33
    Raoul - great article, thank you. "If humans are not required in the workforce, they will procreate even less." I'm not so sure about this, if we have lots of free time we'll probably procreate even more ;) Depending on time frame. #1 one day humans will make a sentient machine smarter than humans or something that so closely resembles it we can't tell the difference. If it's also interested in self preservation, then all bets are off. #2 before then when AI's are doing tasks requested and controlled by humans, then I think the value of those AI's will only depend on the value of their output to other humans. Facebook's early valuations in 2012 taught me one thing, people care about interacting with other people, and that will give it value. If no one has to work in order to survive, and we have more free time then I think whole new ways of life will spring up, and a lot of it will involve interacting with other humans just out of choice. Like you could see a band, if there's a robot band vs a human band I bet most people go see the human band because they're interested in what other humans can do. Plus/alternatively we just work more. Humans are problem solvers, there are endless problems out there to be solved, the ones we work on today are the ones we consider highest priority (debatable I know), many problems we don't even start on because we don't have time. There will be lots of useful things for humans to be doing for a long time yet. To quote Santiago Velez, "I'm long humanity"
    • RP
      Raoul P. | Founder
      28 October 2022 @ 22:23
      I too am long humanity but with an eye on the law of unintended consequences
  • SR
    Steve R.
    29 October 2022 @ 05:21
    One other side to this is how do governments control their populations under this scenario? "The devil makes work for idle hands". I just don't think humans can exist in this kind of world. Its simply 'not human'. Humanity would likely just destroy itself. So glad I won't be around to witness any of this.
    • SR
      Steve R.
      29 October 2022 @ 05:25
      In respect to robotics and AI the Exponential Age is the exponential trend towards the total collapse and destruction of humanity. No thanks.
  • RS
    RV S.
    29 October 2022 @ 11:27
    GDP = productivity + population growth. Yes but GDP also = private consumptions + blah blah blah. With robot replacing human, most human will be out of job and how to buy what robot produce irrespective of how productive robot is???? Most likely the human species will be mostly downgraded to third world citizens? I think we human just need to moderate our consumption because in fact we are consuming excessively more than healthy level and there are enough human to support human and seriously human does not really need to depend on robots. Only the capitalists think so.
  • DJ
    Donald J.
    29 October 2022 @ 23:42
    This is all very interesting, reminds me of the book Origin by Dan Brown. Question, if humans are a species on the verge of extinction or merge (as in the book Origin by 2050) what purpose will robots and AI have without human needs?
  • BG
    Bob G.
    30 October 2022 @ 00:04
    I don't think the central notion that "robots are demographics" really holds water. Human demography is predictive of both production and consumption, but robots contribute mostly on the production side. It also glosses over how hard it is, and how capital intensive it is, to establish and maintain robotic production. As consumption declines due to the demographic trend and his idea of static wages, it's unclear that the CapEx will be worth it. For Amazon in a controlled warehouse, sure, but a controlled warehouse environment is the low-hanging fruit of robotics after assembly lines. In other environments it's going to be a longer haul. We have some interesting generative AI development to help with certain tasks, but his later ideas seem predicated on generalized AI. That's an entirely different thing. I was also unconvinced by the claim-without-evidence that a robot-aided post-scarcity society will lead to further collapse in population. There have been many thinkers who have tackled the notion of a post-scarcity society, where energy and production costs were no longer a serious factor; Raoul should perhaps read at least a few of these. Decline in fertility rates is driven by many factors, but economic scarcity is a significant one. It's as reasonable to think that fertility rate decline will be arrested or even reverse in such an environment. And the "robot overlords" thing? [facepalm]. OK, Boomer. Really, the world is not going to come to an end when any of us step off of it!
    • JG
      Johan G.
      3 November 2022 @ 13:30
      Also, I believe that there is in principle no difference between a general productivity enhancing capital formation(investment in machinery that replaces human labor), and investment in robots that replaces human labor. Both of them can be expressed in terms of capital formation and their effect on human labor productivity. As such I do not think that the concept of 'robots as demographics' really adds anything to our understanding of the effect of robots on society. AI as a singularity is something else of course.
    • GC
      Gregg C.
      31 October 2022 @ 13:17
      Very good analysis, especially about the expenditure to expand and maintain robot production. I think the robot claims sound a bit like the self driving claims of just a few years ago. Ford, Volkswagen and others have thrown in the towel on that and Tesla has been saying it's just around the corner for a long while. Robots are here and they will do more, that's for sure but I don't see it as an all of a sudden thing, but a gradual thing.
  • ME
    Mark E.
    30 October 2022 @ 13:16
    Outstanding write-up. Thank You.
  • B
    Brandon .
    2 November 2022 @ 20:19
    Anyone have a view on ROBO vs the other similar EFTs? IRBO etc etc ?