Hayek’s point is not a new one and did not reveal any great revelations as far as economic thought is concerned. Clearly it is easy to lose all the small pieces when we get too caught up in watching the big picture. As many have pointed out a computer and the vast networks which we have created using them could possibly both watch the availability of resources and their most efficient uses; ensuring that the economy is running at its most optimal. Making corrections when necessary. Unfortunately, those computers would still have to be programmed to know what to look for and what to do when the price of good x changes. Its programming would have to be adaptive to keep up with the changes in our very dynamic economy. It would have to be aware of every possible change in every aspect of individual choice before it was made. It would have to be aware of how many people would want a cup of coffee a year in advance to ensure that just the correct amount of coffee was grown and roasted and shipped to Fairbanks so that all those who demanded coffee tomorrow could have their wants satisfied.
Since the computer could not be given the level of precognition required to effectively manage the economy through time it would have to take on risk. Risks that it would allocate too much effort to coffee production and not enough to ranching, for example. Its programmers would have to uses statistics to try and reduce the level of risk which would be associated with these temporal decisions but each of those would have a limited level of certainty. Perhaps the computer would only be 65% certainty that 10,000 people in the interior would want a coffee in the morning. How would we tell the computer to account for that? If we are wrong we would have people angrily exclaiming their unsatisfied demands for coffee in the streets. In the Great Coffee Riots of 2023. Clearly, this computer or any organization attempting to manage the economy would have to become comfortable with the idea that it will be doing a poor job. And more than likely find that as it more tightly tried to control markets the more they did not conform to its preconceptions of their function.
It would be possible to manage the economy perfectly. But no one is willing to propose what is necessary to have that level of control. A level of control that would remove our basic freedoms and tell us (not ask) our preferences. If every aspect was controlled from the moment we were born to who we married, to how many children we could have, were we could live and what type of work we did. Then every event in the economy would no longer have to be predicted from inaccurate aggregates. It would be a known fact. Then our computer could just ensure the XY and XX got married and XY junior would be a plumber like his father. They would all drink exactly one cup of coffee in the morning or be shot. It would be the perfectly controlled economy. Innovation and anything that would be seen as advancement would have to be stamped out as the economy could not accommodate any change in the allocation of resources. You could not have an Ipod because it would kill the CD industry. In the end it is clear to see how trying to control markets puts us on the superhighway to serfdom.