counterpunch | It’s the robots, stupid.
The rabid anti-immigrant campaign of Donald Trump mirrors the racist vitriol of right-wing politicians across much of the developed world. But totally absent from what passes for political debate in the U.S. and abroad is what’s really driving those ever more incendiary movements.
They are fueled by fear. There’s the dread of terrorist attacks, to be sure. But much more pervasive is the unremitting, anxiety of hundreds of millions in the developed world that they are threatened by change, by dark forces they neither understand nor control—by rampant unemployment, a diminished standard of living. They have been brought up to believe that hard work and sacrifice would bring a better life. No longer.
Donald Trump tells them hordes of immigrants, illegal aliens and disastrous trade pacts are to blame. But Trump—as well as those excoriating him–are totally missing the point.
The major force impacting our society is the spectacular advance of technologies —robotics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The dizzying pace of change is only going to accelerate: a chain reaction as we hurtle to warp speed. (See my previous blog)
Why is this phenomenon not the urgent focus of our political debates? Why are we instead obsessed with illegal aliens and Hillary’s emails?
It used to be that we welcomed advances in technology. We were assured they ultimately create more jobs than they destroy. No longer.
Estimates are that close to half the jobs in the United States are likely to be wiped out or seriously diminished by technological change within the near future. These are not just factory workers, receptionists, secretaries, telephone operators and bank tellers. Sophisticated algorithms will soon replace some 140 million full-time “knowledge workers” worldwide. Those threatened range from computer programmers, to graphic artists to lawyers, to financial analysts and journalists.