Dragging Educated People Into The Underclass

“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,”

Martin Ford identifies the possible down sides of technology in a capitalist society in his book: The Lights in the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Futurenoteck

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?

Photo by Sammy0716 under this creative common license

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One thought on “Dragging Educated People Into The Underclass

  1. Yes, I remember the Tomorrow’s World visions of us all pottering about spending our time as we chose whilst robots did our chores and intelligent vehicles took us where we wanted to go.

    To my mind life is so much more complicated now. It is easy to feel swamped out by what technology puts at our finger tips. I’d love to be oblivious to some of it a lot of the time.

    In terms of working patterns, for me, the major difference over the past 10 years or so, is that I don’t do anything in huge blocks of time anymore – I work and do other things at much the same time. I don’t work or less but my day is spent on a blend of the two.

    I don’t know if the skills of people like me will be devalued in time. I kind of thought that would happen in terms of statistical programmes taking over but actually it has just meant more people try to manipulate statistics and there is actually more applied work or people seeking advice than there was previously.

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