Everyone knows it’s a good thing. Economists talk about “productivity” and, more seriously, total factor productivity. When there’s more, wealth generally increases, which is good. Except when it’s bad.
It’s good when I can pick up my rental car without shuffling paper, waiting in line, or standing in front of a counter.
It sucks that the only efficient way to get anywhere and do business, in most of North America, requires the unshared use of a ton or so of fossil-fuel-driven steel.
It’s good when I can read about an interesting book, hit the online bookstore, and either start reading electronically one minute later, or have the more beautiful paper version show up at my door that same week.
It sucks that people are cruelly overworked and underpaid in Dickensian warehouses to bring me the goodies I buy online.
It’s good when my local grocery has a wide selection of fresh fruits, veggies, and meats twelve months of the year, fourteen hours a day; and my local drugstore (almost always open) has reading-glasses, bus-passes, and band-aids.
It sucks that bringing me affordable food year round involves industrial-agriculture practices that are seriously scary and involve what looks like brutally-inhumane treatment of the animals we eat.
It’s good that I can meet with people in Mountain View and Sydney for an hour of real-time video to debug OAuth2 software.
It sucks that the most efficient way to provide reliable energy risks ruining the planet for our grandchildren.
It’s good that our house is supplied with as much water as we need, as much power as we need, as much natural gas as we need, as much cable TV as we need, and as much Internet as we need.
It sucks that most of the service providers running physical or electric pipes into my house don’t want to talk to me when I have a problem, and send me bills that I can’t understand but seem higher than what I thought I signed up for.
It’s good that ordinary people can afford computers that perform magical acts unimagined by those who wrote about Giant Electronic Brains in my sci-fi childhood.
It sucks that they’re built in factories in South China that have to rig anti-suicide nets on their buildings.
It’s good that I and the ones I love are generally untroubled by hunger or thirst or cold or predators.
Conclusion · It’s complicated.