Friday, September 15, 2017

Leveling Off

I was listening to an episode of The Atlantic's fledgling podcast, Radio Atlantic. In this episode, Ask Not What Your Robots Can Do For You, Editor-in-Chief, Jeffrey Goldberg makes the point, more than once, if I remember correctly, that the political class is unwilling to level with the American public about the eventual effects of growing workplace automation.

But it occurs to me that in a lot of ways, the public is like the stereotypical demanding manager; the one who says: "Don't bring me problems, bring me solutions." And that creates a problem for the political class. Because it means that simply saying to the public: "You're just going to have to accept that the people who own the robots and the software that are going to perform your jobs in the future are going to make more money at your expense." And in that case, there will always be a person who will come along and say: "I will stop that from happening." And even if that person offers no other workable details on how they plan to do this, that shred of a solution may well be enough to propel them into office. At which point, they will have no incentive to retract their earlier promise, and "level" with the public.

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