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Don’t blame the technology — we have a Labor-Social-People-Government-Business problem

by Tom Austin  |  February 16, 2016  |  Comments Off on Don’t blame the technology — we have a Labor-Social-People-Government-Business problem

The authors of this piece in the UK Guardian on AI and unemployment may be overly optimistic or not on the progress of AI and it may be 100 years rather than 50 (or 10 instead of 50) but this isn’t about technology. It’s something very different.

Consider this one quote:
“…technology has already massively changed the US economy in the last 50 years. “We were all delighted to hear  that unemployment went down to 4.8%” this month, he said, “but focusing on the monthly job report hides the fact that for the last 35 years the country has been in economic crisis.” Citing research from MIT, he noted that although Americans continue to drive GDP with increasing productivity, employment peaked around 1980 and average wages for families have gone down. ‘It’s automation’ … “

From my stateside point of view, millennials are unconsciously aware that massive change is needed. Some are opting for Trump’s “kick ass and take names” campaign, while others feel the Bern with Sanders. Meanwhile, the political establishment is running scared.

It’s not just the millennials, BTW, The same thing is happening with large swaths of the economy. 

What’s happening in the States is a canary in a coal mine. Dramatic changes are needed to fore stall and avoid a major crisis in every developed nation. Whether sufficient changes accumulate over the next 10 to 20 years or so is not apparent. 

The problem is not technology. It’s a political system that confers too much authority to private enterprise and not enough support to anyone without large amounts of money. Private enterprise is good but it only exists with the permission of the people, the workers, the state and the political system.

In the US, both political parties are party to this game that allows wealth creation to only flow to the wealthy while the life is being squeezed out of the other 99%. 

This is a replay of Garrett Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons.” In this case, it’s not about nuclear weapons, human population growth or private property rights. It’s about the tragedy of the working class being over consumed by the few who gorge on the benefits of their control of most of the assets of the world. 
On a bad day, this feels like Dickens morphing into Malthus. 
On a good day, what’s a good day? 

Labor, society, business and government need to work together to adapt and change the game. Each have responsibilities to the others, labor to business, government to society and so forth. But it’s out of whack. It’s ugly. And it will only get worse. 
How do we create a more balanced world? Don’t blame technology. With it, we can create enough wealth to cover the needs of the world many times over. But if we don’t change our prioritization to put people, society, labor, government and business in better balance, we’re going to wreck the world.
We have no solutions right now. I have none. Don’t blame the technology.  We collectively have to take responsibility to resolve these issues through peaceful means and via social consensus, free from media overlords financed by the richest of the rich…





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Tom Austin
VP & Gartner Fellow
20 years at Gartner
41 years IT industry

Tom Austin, VP, has been a Gartner Fellow since 1997. He drives Gartner's research content incubator (the Maverick Program) and is leading a new research community creating research on the emerging era of smart machines. Read Full Bio

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