Historically, periods of technological innovations (e.g., Industrial Revolution) have led largely to improvements in well-being. Job losses as a result of such changes were offset by the new jobs created by those same technological changes. This is not the case today, where Artificial Intelligence and automation are rapidly changing things, and the speed of technological change is measured in years rather than decades. Jobs losses due to technological change today will not be replaced, unlike before. With rates of dislocation increasing (an estimated 50 million lost jobs within the next 25 years), how can we retrain workers to become more adaptive?
At the same time, with today’s technology now capable of solving some of the biggest problems throughout history, e.g., poverty reduction, access to food, water, shelter, education etc., how can we apply this technological revolution towards solving the most vexing social problems? The current laissez faire approach to technology will exacerbate inequality rather than ameliorate it. For instance, the innovations in areas of efficiency have largely been directed at consumers, e.g., Apple Genius Bar. What needs to be done is to harness those technologies towards social ends (e.g., making lines at soup kitchens shorter, empowering families by providing information to them such as in the case of FII).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elisabeth Mason is Founding Director of the Stanford Poverty and Technology Lab.