Automation and the Prospects of Anti-tech Politics

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Unless you lived under a rock for the duration of 2016, you’re probably aware of the fact that the United States elected a new president. Promises of good paying jobs, which had vanished nearly ten years before, returning, likely played a role in the election of Donald Trump, but the ability for him to fulfill this promise remains tenuous at best.

And this isn’t a Trump thing. Love him or hate him, many of the jobs in question aren’t coming back because they don’t exist anymore. Or at least, they don’t exist in the traditional sense. Those jobs, especially in manufacturing are still happening, but employers have found that the human capital of yesterday holds little water to the algorithms and automation that’s rising to power today.

Automation is making quick work of a variety of jobs. While it’s true manufacturing has taken the largest hit, many stores across the country now offer shoppers the ability to utilize a self-checkout, proving that even customer service type jobs are no longer a guarantee. The world is facing a future where blue-collar workers become obsolete, replaced by techno counterparts who can operate tirelessly.

Oh, and if you think an advanced degree will save you from the rise in robotics, you’re sorely mistaken. If a machine is capable of doing your job, chances are, the code is being dreamed up right now to afford it that capability. After all, why hire a person when a robot not only does the same job for a fraction of the price, but also requires no health insurance, pension, or vacation days?


If the government intervenes, as it most likely will have to, the political spectrum will have to shift along with it. This means, when politicians run for office in the future, anti-tech platforms are a possibility. Such platforms don’t feel too divorced from reality at this point, but they’re whimpers from extremist outsiders at best. Considering the vein of anti-science, which has grown in strength in the past few years, politicians running against technological advancement seem pretty par for the course, even potentially mainstream in the future.

The question is what will those platforms look like? More than that, however, will individuals in states, where jobs fold to automation put these people into power? With the American dream of personal prosperity still alive, and kicking in places like the rust belt, the notion of scrapping robots so that a human could have a job would likely have an appeal for those who see their employers picking machines over men.

The platforms won’t begin all at once. Instead, politicians recognizing the prospect of running on anti-technology messages will come in trickles. Their effectiveness, of course, relies on the anger and the joblessness remaining, (and in some cases potentially growing) leaving blue collar workers hungry for another to champion their cause.

Enter those who see an opportunity to step in and redirect that anger away from immigrants to machines. While there will always be veins in this country comprised of those who prefer xenophobia to technophobia, given the opportunity to turn their anger towards a source, there are those who will drink up the message. And in a country which seems to be navigating its identity more now than perhaps any other time in the modern era, using technology as an incendiary device could not only lead to further frustrations amongst blue collared workers, it could potentially, set back further technological growth. Ultimately, a politician running against automation, or supporting a technophobic message to the point of winning, will be cutting off America’s nose to spite its face.

What’s more, in a free market society, these anti-tech promises will likely never come to fruition, which is ultimately why no amount of legislation will ever be enough to prevent automation or roll it backward. This will potentially result in more politicians doing what they’ve done best since their inception by lying and rallying individuals to the vote, only to turn around and not deliver. After all, a politician will more than likely listen to the whims of those who rely on automation to create their products, versus those who are losing their jobs, especially since those who potentially rely on automation have the financial means to line political coffers. The blue collar worker’s new champion will likely fold just as quickly as any of their predecessors.

The future isn’t wholly bleak, however. Automation may sound like the end of humanity and anti-automation as the end of advancement, but both are avoidable. As highlighted by an article in The Guardian, government intervention will likely have to occur eventually, but this could potentially benefit workers.

The living wage is potentially a happy medium. Finland is testing this idea out, providing its citizens with a monthly stipend whether they’re working or unemployed. The experiment will last for two years, with the hopes being that if the citizens have money to spend, the economy will remain stable. While it will be interesting to see whether the program proves successful or not, the chance of the United States adopting such a thing anytime soon seems extremely slim. While there’s no perfect way to handle the loss of jobs to machines, the prospect of creating a more efficient means for blue-collar workers to gain upward mobility is also something that could potentially counter the anti-tech messaging. For such a thing to take hold in the United States, however, the dialogue about government handouts will have to change.

A country turning its back on technology won’t bring back jobs. Hopefully, the politicians of the future will be cognizant of such a thing if or when they decide to build their platform. There are a thousand different answers about how to navigate the changing world, and humanity’s marriage to the machine, but opting to stagnate as a species by turning our back on whatever the future holds won’t help. What occurs, politically and technologically, however, will depend on the will of the people, and whether they believe in whatever message resonates most strongly.

One Response to “Automation and the Prospects of Anti-tech Politics”

  1. What governments should do (and will either fail at or not do at all) is to create a new social and economic order where technological progress is harmonized to the fundamental human rights of having a role in society, a living and a dignity. When full automatization will come, the state of mankind will not benefit from it: it’ll be carried on by individuals concerned with their own power and uninterested in making other people’s lives better, widening the rift between poor and wealthy. No state, even the willful Iceland, is *ever* going to implement perpetual budget items for living wages in a capitalistic environment: in general, technology driven mass welfare is not compatible with the way economy works today – and will still work in the future.

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