I've been a bit obsessed with the potential risk robots (and, more broadly, accelerating technology) may pose to the future of the middle class ever since reading Martin Ford's book The Lights in the Tunnel last Thanksgiving. I'd heard of Ford's book and had it staring at me on my Kindle for over a year, and when I finally sat down to read it I was blown away.
Ford believes the next phase of capitalism could force us to rethink our assumption that technology always creates more new jobs and industries than it destroys. It's provocative to say the least – and has revolutionary implications if he's right.
Some traditional name-brand economists like to pooh-pooh Ford's case because he's a software engineer, not a member of the economists' tribe. But MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson, co-author of Race Against the Machine, largely agrees with Ford. In this episode, I talk to both men – two of the top thinkers in this emerging arena – about what accelerating technology really means for our economic future.
Are the threats they see still 100 years away? Or 50? Or maybe as few as twenty years away? How would we know? And what do we do about it?
There's no question this will be one of the biggest issues facing the economy in the decades ahead – and we may already be seeing evidence of accelerating technological unemployment in our stalled recovery from the Great Recession. I hope after listening you'll be as fascinated, and perhaps anxious, about this trend as I am.