During a talk at SXSW yesterday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got an audience question about automation and jobs and answered by saying, "We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem."
This is the underlying premise of what's semi-seriously called "fully automated luxury communism" -- the idea that automation could usher in an era of universal comfort and plenty, but only if its dividends are shared among workers and owners of capital. There's no justice or glory in the fact that all of us use toilets and only some of us have to clean them, after all -- but if we figured out how to automate toilet cleaning, there would be even less justice and glory in discarding the people who've been cleaning toilets all along.
“We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in,” she said. “Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says ‘we should be excited about automation’
[Adi Robertson/The Verge]
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The looming threat of mass-unemployment driven by automation has been grossly overstated: while it's true that "truck driver" is one of the most common jobs in America, the vast majority of truck drivers are not long-haul drivers, which are the drivers at risk of having their jobs automated out of existence.
Tech reporter and sf writer Brian Merchant (previously) calls our attention to the peculiar construction of the problem statement in articles about automation and obsolescence, in which "robots are coming to steal your job."
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