“If that underclass increases relentlessly over time, and if you start seeing more educated people getting dragged into it, then we are going to have a huge problem. I think that may happen as machines and computers keep getting better until eventually they can do the jobs of even people with lots of education and training. At that point I think you have to do something,”
Ford is presumably no Luddite by nature. His main profession is as a computer engineer.
30 years ago similar sooth sayers were predicting a future of increased leisure time as technology took the drudgery out of work and provided an unprecedented standard of living for all. The decade that followed that prediction saw, in the UK anyway, a huge increase in the number of hours that people worked and as old industries crumbled to give way to a service based economy, a growing underclass and social divide. Martin Ford seems to hint that it’s probably capitalism that needs to be regulated rather than the growth of technology in isolation.
At the same time as this forecast of a utopian world of increased technology there were more realistic forecasts such as Alvin Toffler‘s The Third Wave with it’s vision of a post industrial society and the end of ‘a job for life’.
We seem to be some way into that post industrial third wave. Is Ford hinting that technology is merely hastening the collapse of the post industrial society or just highlighting that with out certain checks and balances many of us in the future may unexpectedly travel rapidly backwards along the metaphorical escalator of social mobility.
Is technology just a tool? It’s how we deploy it that creates the benefits and/or disadvantages isn’t it?