Wide Angle: Episode 20 – The Luddites and the Coming Wave of Automation

Although we like to think of ourselves as indispensible, recent economic analyses warn that fully 47% of all US jobs today will be lost over the next two decades not to China or India, but to automation. That includes jobs in manufacturing, already witness to significant displacement by automation, as well as newer sectors: drivers of all sorts–cabs, tractor trailers, even 747s–insurance underwriters, library technicians, journalists and some in the medical and legal fields.
The workers of northern Britain at the turn of the nineteenth century experienced a similar displacement by the technology of their day. And you’ve likely heard of a particularly assertive segment of them: the Luddites. Hailing from the same region as Robin Hood and his merry band of wealth redistributors, the Luddites sought to protect workers like themselves from the excesses of the owning class.
Joining Peter to discuss the Luddites, their times and the lessons they might offer us today is Clive Thompson. Clive has for the past twenty years has been a journalist writing on the impact of technology on politics, culture, and everything in between for periodicals such as the New York Times Magazine, Wired and Mother Jones. He also writes for Smithsonian, which published in their January/February edition his article, “Rage Against the Machines,” which provides the basis for this interview.

Produced by | March 30, 2017 |