Inequality & Technology
This week on Facebook: The subject of global inequality is clearly one that presents a global dilemma in the search for a rational between the inequalities that economic growth has introduced with the advances in technology¹. The latter being this week’s subject as the harbinger of global inequality that is now being experienced by the developed world. Would that it were that simple, but many more factors are involved and while a scapegoat for global economic woes may be desirable, its use is only papering over the cracks that are now being revealed.
It seems that the endemically corrupt Roman political system understood that to find out why things may be happening contrary to expectations, or even in alignment with them, keeping track of where money is going may show the basis for the observed behaviour. Sequere Pecuniam (Follow The Money)
Even if it is assumed that moving money (as indicated in the above link) intends to allow for the knowledge that fiscal policies always debauch a currency, this in itself does not lead to an answer for global inequality. It is simply a strand in a Gordian knot that—in this case—the stroke of a sword is unlikely to unravel. So attention becomes focused on the search for a scapegoat to the present global economic woes.
Peter Drucker viewed automation (technology) is a decidedly mixed bag—a lift for those fortunate souls with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of the shifting landscape of work and a huge challenge for many others invariably left behind… Of particular note now—in an age where artificial intelligence threatens to upend the careers of even the most well-educated white-collar workers—Drucker didn’t preach the importance of lifelong learning for any one type of occupation. Everyone, he thought, must continually be prepared to take in and master new ways to approach their job.
In a society dominated by the fact of commercial competition, money is necessarily the test of prowess, and wastefulness the sole criterion of power. Upton Sinclair — The Jungle (1906)
The causes lie deep and simply — the causes are a hunger in a stomach, multiplied a million times; a hunger in a single soul, hunger for joy and some security, multiplied a million times; muscles and mind aching to grow, to work, to create, multiplied a million times. The last clear definite function of man — muscles aching to work, minds aching to create beyond the single need — this is man. John Steinbeck — The Grapes of Wrath (1939)
In March 2018 the Smithsonian Magazine wrote, “The more technologically advanced a society was the less equal it tended to be—a cautionary tale for our increasingly high-tech future”. A remark perhaps taken as confirmation by those who would use technology as a scapegoat² for global inequality.
Monday — Is Technological Innovation Making Society More Unequal? These inequalities, and the resulting societal divisions, were one cause of the 2008 global financial crisis — and were, in turn, amplified by it. The economies of the West, the epicenter of the crisis, remain stagnant a decade after the crisis. The political rise of Donald Trump in the United States and the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom — not to mention the rise of nationalism across Europe and the political failures and tensions in Brazil, South Africa, and Russia — can all be argued to be outcomes of, or related to, these inequalities.
Tuesday — Tech May Widen the Gap Between Rich and Poor: In 2005, Citigroup sent a memo to its wealthiest clients, suggesting that the United States is rapidly turning into a plutonomy: a nation in which the wealthy and the prosperous are driving the economy, while everybody else pretty much tags along. In the words of the report — “There is no such thing as “The U.S. Consumer” or “UK Consumer”, but rich and poor consumers in these countries… The rich are getting richer; they dominate spending. Their trend of getting richer looks unlikely to end anytime soon.”
Wednesday — is technology contributing to increased inequality? According to The Second Machine Age, by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee, this has been a slow train coming since the 1980s, when the PC invaded offices and homes. This change has gathered momentum ever since, and the exponential nature of technology is now accelerating this development. While technological innovation has replaced jobs for decades, it has always created more jobs than it has destroyed.
Thursday — Technology is making the world more unequal: The inequality of badly-run or corrupt states is boosted by the power of technology – but it’s also easier than ever to destabilise these states, thanks to technology. The question is: which future will prevail?
Friday — How Technology Can Transform Workplace Humanity: If leveraged correctly, technology has the ability to positively influence and support our humanity rather than push it away. It can help engage, recognise and protect those we care about and the people who work in organisations.
Referenced Articles & Books: A book (usually free), or simply a url that may sometimes link to a download that also usual free.
¹The dystopian lake filled by the world’s tech lust: You may not have heard of Baotou, but the mines and factories here help to keep our modern lives ticking. It is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of “rare earth” minerals. These elements can be found in everything from magnets in wind turbines and electric car motors, to the electronic guts of smartphones and flatscreen TVs.
²Technology and Inequality (MIT): The signs of the gap—really, a chasm—between the poor and the super-rich are hard to miss in Silicon Valley. On a bustling morning in downtown Palo Alto, the center of today’s technology boom, apparently homeless people and their meager belongings occupy almost every available public bench. Twenty minutes away in San Jose, the largest city in the Valley, a camp of homeless people known as the Jungle—reputed to be the largest in the country—has taken root along a creek within walking distance of Adobe’s headquarters and the gleaming, ultramodern city hall.
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