Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, by Martin Ford

Staff review by Chris Saliba

Martin Ford explains how advances in technology will greatly reduce employment prospects in the future. 

Martin Ford is a Silicon Valley software developer and author. The Rise of the Robots examines  how advances in robotics and automation will have a massive impact on future employment. His basic thesis, which he argues with great care and balance, is that automation is certain to displace large amounts of human labour. The economic rule of thumb, that new technological revolutions destroy jobs but also create them in equal measure, seems unlikely to hold according to Ford. For example, large tech companies like Google and Facebook have huge valuations, but minimal employees. To add to the gloominess, Ford says that education offers only diminishing returns as technology becomes smarter. Many people when they do find work will only be working on algorithms to make their own jobs obsolete.

One solution to this looming crisis, writes Ford, is to have a guaranteed minimum wage for everyone who is made unemployable, although he admits this proposal is full of potential problems. This is an extremely depressing book, persuasively argued. The perfect endgame of capitalism, where machines will do all or most of our work, turns out to be a nightmare where a small elite wield enormous economic power and the rest of us barely subsist.

The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, by Martin Ford. Published by Oneworld. ISBN: 9781780747491  RRP: $29.99

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