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The Future of Repugnance

Al Roth, whom we’ve blogged about in the past, is known (to me, at least) as the King of Repugnance.

Not that Roth is himself in any way repugnant (quite the opposite), but he is masterful at  thinking about the kind of transactions that we find morally or ethically or otherwise disturbing and how the trends of repugnance shift over time.

For a forthcoming book anthology called In 100 Years (inspired, Roth tells us, by a 1930 essay by Keynes called “Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren"), Roth has written an essay (PDF here) about the future of repugnance:

“To summarize the predictions I’ve made here about 100 years from now, I think that the trend of increasing prosperity will continue, but that it will not necessarily (as Keynes predicted in 1930) bring us all lives of leisure.  Many will work harder than ever, and some of the things some of us will do to work more efficiently — like taking performance enhancing drugs — will go from being repugnant today to ordinary in the future. Other things we do eagerly today, like use computers for access to more and more data, may become repugnant in some respects, as privacy of personal data moves to the forefront of civil rights issues. And while medical advances will continue on all fronts, and advances in preventive medicine will make medical care and long-lived good health more widely available, some kinds of medicine, including reproductive medicine along with other aspects of reproduction, will become commoditized, while others, such as genetic manipulation of various sorts, may become repugnant. Some kinds of education will become commoditized, but among the matching markets that we see today, selective admissions to elite universities will remain, as will networking and matchmaking for family formation (under a wider variety of marital forms) and perhaps increasingly, for research collaborators and other kinds of business partners.  And there will still be economists, and economic mysteries to unravel, including those that will arise from the increased computerization of markets and marketplaces. Much of market design that we struggle to understand today will have become commoditized and be found in off the shelf software, but understanding how to design novel markets and fix market failures will remain an active concern of our economist grandchildren.

Which of Roth’s predictions do you find most outlandish?