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Devaluing of Human Labor

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The rise in economic inequality associated with technological displacement is one of the dening issues of our time. Last year the White House reported that recent advances in AI will result in the obsolescence of millions of low and medium-skill jobs and the depression of wages for ordinary workers. This prediction echoes an emerging consensus in social scientic literature: that the trend of widening inequality will only accelerate as more rms move to achieve cost advantages by replacing labor with capital. To glimpse a future of dire technological inequality, one need look no further than the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the wealthiest regions of America with the highest rates of eviction and homelessness. As Russel Hancock, president of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, recently explained in an interview with MIT Technology Review, “When we used to have booms in the tech sector, it would lift all boats. That not how it works anymore.”
So what is driving this hollowing out of jobs at the bottom and middle of society? Is it simply the case that increasingly intelligent and ecient machines are outmoding their human counterparts in all but a narrow set of economic activities? Certainly this is not the whole story. The tech industry’s reshaping of society has been driven not only by technological factors, but also deeply social ones. In the past two decades, tech rms have engaged in a dialectical process of emphasizing the superiority of technologies and simultaneously devaluing human labor.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAnthropology News
ISSN1541-6151
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

    Research areas

  • Digita labor, platform

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