January 27, 2013 at 8:53 am #17566
Blaming the recession and shrinking middle-class on technological advances
The resurgence of an old Progressive-Era argument may be swelling in public debate. The canard goes like this: “Advances in technology are killing jobs, particularly for the middle-class, and causing persistent unemployment. Technological advances have occurred in the past but have allowed workers time to adjust and find employment elsewhere. But now things are different. Technology is advancing too rapidly and not giving people time to adjust.”
This line of thinking also implies the current depression is a direct result of technological advancement.
One of the recent proponents of this argument is Andrew McAfee of MIT and Harvard Business School fame who co-wrote “Race Against the Machine” (a play on the band name “Rage Against The Machine”). Forbes and Associated Press, among others, are jumping on the bandwagon. They cite examples like “Foxconn replacing workers with robots” and “Utility meter reader jobs headed for extinction.”
There are so many classic refutations of this tripe it is hard to know where to begin. The first counterargument that comes to mind relates to scarcity. Do the proponents of this argumentation really believe we are on the verge of eliminating scarcity?
With thinking like this, it is a wonder we’re not still throwing people into volcanoes to appease the Economy God!
Has anyone come across a good overview of the counterarguments to this faulty logic? Books, articles, and essays? It would be a treat to hear about empircal examples of how this is simply false.
Many thanksJanuary 27, 2013 at 12:41 pm #17567January 27, 2013 at 1:15 pm #17568negligible91Member
“The first counterargument that comes to mind relates to scarcity. Do the proponents of this argumentation really believe we are on the verge of eliminating scarcity?”
Just my two cents, but I don’t know how well this would work against them. They seem to be saying that there is so much new technology that workers are constantly being displaced and cannot move from job to job quickly enough because it takes time to develop new skills, etc.
So maybe this counterargument could be part of a larger counterargument, but I don’t think it works by itself. For example, you could point out the fact there’s a minimum wage, safety net, etc.January 27, 2013 at 1:32 pm #17569
You’re spot on. Using technical arguments to refute common misconceptions rarely helps people overcome their initial feeling about them.
Maybe showing them pictures like this would help
Women telephone switchboard operators – a vintage circa 1914 photo
I work in the tech sector so I can’t help but have strong feelings against this line of thought. Articles like this one really tell the story
IT job market recovering faster than after dot-com bubble burst
I remember when certifications in Novell NetWare were all the rage. A NetWare certification won’t do much good in a job interview now.
IT workers are the single greatest refutation of the job-killing automation argument I can think of.
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