The Technology Trap

The Technology Trap[Download] ➾ The Technology Trap Author Carl Benedikt Frey – How the history of technological revolutions can help us better understand economic and political polarization in the age of automationFrom the Industrial Revolution to the age of artificial intellige How the history of technological revolutions can help us better understand economic and political polarization in the age of automationFrom the Industrial Revolution to the age of artificial intelligence The Technology Trap takes a sweeping look at the history of technological progress and how it has radically shifted the distribution of economic and political power among society’s members As Carl Benedikt The Technology PDF/EPUB ² Frey shows the Industrial Revolution created unprecedented wealth and prosperity over the long run but the immediate conseuences of mechanization were devastating for large swaths of the population Middle income jobs withered wages stagnated the labor share of income fell profits surged and economic ineuality skyrocketed These trends Frey documents broadly mirror those in our current age of automation which began with the Computer RevolutionJust as the Industrial Revolution eventually brought about extraordinary benefits for society artificial intelligence systems have the potential to do the same But Frey argues that this depends on how the short term is managed In the nineteenth century workers violently expressed their concerns over machines taking their jobs The Luddite uprisings joined a long wave of machinery riots that swept across Europe and China Today’s despairing middle class has not resorted to physical force but their frustration has led to rising populism and the increasing fragmentation of society As middle class jobs continue to come under pressure there’s no assurance that positive attitudes to technology will persistThe Industrial Revolution was a defining moment in history but few grasped its enormous conseuences at the time The Technology Trap demonstrates that in the midst of another technological revolution the lessons of the past can help us to effectively face the present. This book looks at the relationships between technology and Capital Labor and Politics It focuses on technology's relationship to industrializing Britain America of the Second Industrial revolution about 1870 to 1970 and America's current economy which often goes by the name of the information economy Industrializing Britain with its Dark Satanic Mills resembles our current information economy in the hollowing out of the middle and declining conditions for labor in a growing economy overall The growth and prosperity were limited to a narrowing sector of society even though the average per capita income was increasing due to the productivity of a small sector This growing income ineuality and dislocation of workers caused populist rage among people left behind In the 19th century this lead to Marx and Engels and their critiues of capitalism It is no surprise that Marx is making a comeback in this populist era of rage along with the resurgence or rage on the right wing which is making for an ugly politics worldwide Both the present and the Britain of Dickens look similar for labor than the second industrial revolution which had widely shared prosperity The author points to labor saving technology as a double edged sword it enables and replaces In the current economy it enables symbolic workers and replaces jobs that are rote and routine This means a lot of jobs that previously empowered an army of factory labor in the second industrial revolution have replaced by automation and offshoring while pay for certain types of skilled labor has paid dividends in IT departments among uants and in Silicon Valley These developments have lead to a polarization in the economy and income ineuality and a hollowing out of the middle class and many workers' displacement into the low paid service sector leaving many a growing sense loss and rage This is a problem for our politics and it seems likely that these trends will continue at least for the near term The author however offers some hope by pointing out in this work that we have been here before and found a way out before Our way out as usual will at least in part have to be hammered out in politics The argument of this book can be compressed to a key point technological change has often made life worse for most people in the short run while eventually making everyone's life later on The problem is that the short run can comprise an entire human lifetime or longer The Industrial Revolution was a devastating regression into misery for the once thriving and free artisan classes of England The industrialists waged an absolutely zero sum battle against labor pressing every weak point and sparing nothing to sentiment They even took to employing children as effective slave labor in their newly mechanized plants to use as a pliable and controllable workforce when it became possible The old labor classes fought back including through violence But once outside competitive pressures led the government to side decisively with capital the battle was lostIt is a misconception that no one invented much until the 17th century The difference however was that technological innovation was always public sector for military use or the construction of infrastructure projects The privatization of technological advance was what really transformed the planet and is still doing so As globalization picked up steam and nations were forced into a life or death competition rulers were less inclined than they'd been to slow down the gears of change in the name of stability The Darwinian small nations environment of Europe that existed all the way until the creation of the EU was highly conducive to allowing technologists free reign in the name of national competitivenessTechnology wipes out jobs and constantly renovates society There is no one there guaranteeing that it will be nice Contrary to the upbeat propaganda it usually isn't nice To be clear in the long term AI could very well make things better for everyone as previous waves of change ultimately did Anyone who uses a laundry machine a dishwasher a television or a car has the premodern euivalent of an army of servants at their disposal No one should wish to go back to the good old days of most people doing grueling manual labor The only problem is that the period of change is very painful People don't live in the long run and the short run could literally mean several generations of general immiseration and povertyThis book is not bad a bit repetitive and really the crux of it is contained in the introductory essay Frey does not expect an imminent wave of major job losses from advances in automation but they're coming at some point The uestion of how euitable the social order that emerges afterwards is based entirely on politics Technology helps society to progress but causes massive and permanent disruptions to many people’s livelihood throughout history There are 2 kinds of technology the replacing type that makes Labor redundant and the enabling type that makes skilled workers productive 1 There have always been inventors who think of smart ways to do things better However the industrial revolution did not happen for a Long time 2 This is because feudal rulers feared civil unrest as machines replace Labor So they suppressed automation That is until England realised that without automation it will lag behind other European countries Frey argues that this is the main reason the Industrial Revolution happened in England China managed to suppress automation until the 20th century and that led to a century of decline 3 Many examples were given such as the lamp lighters’ disappeared livelihood when oil lamps were replaced with electric ones Unfortunately usually those people found it very difficult to get new skills and new jobs 4 So the Luddites destroyed machines Only when the English government sided with the industrialists did automation continued 5 Over the past 30 years the real wage of people with poor skills had plunged Sometimes whole industries and towns are decimated by automation and globalisation So people become upset 6 With AI it is likely that skilled workers will further improve their productivity where the poorly skilled will have only lousy jobs to do7 Even then AI replacing Labor will take a Long time because whole new complementary support systems must be built and new skills learnt Also angry people who lose their middle class jobs will vote for leaders whom they think will protect them Ie populists 8 What can be done? Universal income costs too much Also people actually like to work Free preschools help the poor kids Changing land zoning laws allow houses to be built around cities with new jobs Free childcare allow single parents to work and not worry 9 If centrist governments do not do anything the people will lose hope on them and vote for populists 35 Stars“In America labour productivity has grown eight times faster than hourly compensation since 1979 Even as the American economy has become much productive real wages have been stagnant and people are out of work; conseuently the labour share of income has fallen”I would like to have given a in depth review of this book but the truth is I have been battling with a couple stinkers in between which diverted my attention Frey does what not enough American or any academics can do in that he writes with authority and clarity whilst remaining accessible to people who are not just fellow scholars or undergraduates “There is no iron law that postulate that technology must benefit the many at the expense of the few”Frey takes a reasoned balanced approach he illustrates the many great benefits that everyone has gained from the advancements in technology less laborious or tedious manual work and better cleaner working environments for most people in most places and that’s before we even get to the many wonderful developments in medicine“Only half of Americans born in 1980 are economically better off than their parents compared to 90% of those born in 1940”He gives both sides of what has happened during various phases of automation mechanisation and computerisation with a specific emphasis on the US and draws many well reached conclusions and explanations So overall this was a really enjoyable read and I learned a lot and I would certainly recommend this The author did a fantastic job in covering the roles technologies played in history especially about the distinction between enabling technologies vs worker replacing ones Also AI is a very pressing topic The author correctly pointed out that the challenges ahead lie in in the area of political economy not in technology itselfIt seems that he tried to explained what caused the economic situation in US No doubt as the author demonstrated that computer revolution and automation has played a big role in the last several decades However the analysis was fatally flawed Without discussing the economical and the philosophical theories behind it the neo liberal orthodoxy the author's conclusion was way short For example shareholder value's ultimate importance enthusiastic pursuing of deindustrialization and globalization Those were made largely by choiceNAFTA was supposed to be good for US overall according the prevailing economists Apparently it created winners and losers Were the losers helpedcompensated enough well there's the uestion how much is enough? My guess is not Good review at the Inuisitive Biologist which you should read if you are thinking of reading the bookThere are two take home messages in this book First whether technology is opposed depends on whether it will hit people where it hurts their wallet Second as history shows successful opposition reuires the support of those in power Without it resistance is futile This might seem self evident but what I found eye opening is the distinction Frey makes between enabling and replacing technologies as not all technology is the same Enabling technology is usually a boon to workers making them productive or lightening physically demanding tasks Replacing technology however usually meets with fierce opposition as it makes people’s jobs redundant As an example where motorised vehicles were an enabling technology compared to horse drawn wagons that improved the job of professional drivers self driving cars promise to be a replacing technology that could mean mass unemploymentThese clearly formulated messages are embedded in a grand chronological narrative of technological development and its impact on human labour providing a much needed and mightily interesting perspective Frey takes the reader from the agricultural revolution some 10000 years ago through to the eve of the Industrial Revolution in Britain which he examines in detail This period of steam driven mechanization and job replacement led into the Second Industrial Revolution around 1880 with the discovery of electricity The book’s focus shifts to the experience in the United States which emerged as a powerhouse of manufacturing This time around there was less resistance as living conditions improved and incomes were levelled across the board That brings us to our current era where automation has emerged as a new disruptive force and ineuality has grown once again Finally Frey carefully considers the future with the looming spectre of AI promising further upheaval a uestion I had never considered why did it take so long for the Industrial Revolution to happen? Consider that historically there was no shortage of technological ingenuity and technical skill From the engineering feats of the Greeks and the Romans who were interested in warfare than industry through yes even the Dark Ages that saw windmills and ultimately the printing press to the many scientific discoveries and inventions of the Renaissance Leonardo da Vinci was but one of many inventors who were centuries ahead of their time We had mechanical clocks telescopes and barometers long before the Industrial Revolution So why the wait? Frey convincingly argues that the answer can be given in one wordResistanceThis is the technological trap of the book’s title As also shown in Sheilagh Ogilvie’s recent book The European Guilds craft guilds shaped the economy for centuries They looked out for their members and opposed progress either legally or by force Frey provides many examples of violent riots destroying early inventions And guilds saw themselves supported by the ruling classes who feared social unrest with royal edicts banning machines It highlights one of the book’s central messages; that successful opposition needs the support of those in power An interesting book I'm surprised I'm only just now hearing about it Well lots of recent distractions eh? After co authoring a hit academic paper on the effect of automation on employment what do you do next? Carl Frey returns with a long and I mean LONG book about technological unemployment The book is indulgent in its extensive historical survey but also than competently researched and timelyThe book is 80% a summary of other people's research and only 20% based on Frey's own research This is by no means a bad thing since too many intellectuals stray beyond their field of expertise with bold declarations of scientific breakthroughs There is nothing hubristic about Frey's account despite the long time scale and the broad strokes account He carefully and exhaustively documents the best available literature on historical waves of industrialization and technological change The fact based account proceeds smoothly and mechanically like on a Fordist assembly line from the past to the present before modestly peering into the futureThe book never uite manages to advance a novel theoretical point beyond the unoriginal albeit credible point that history repeats itself and governments need to ameliorate the suffering faced by temporary losers of technological progress Secondly it takes too long to get anywhere After reading it I felt nourished but also a little bloated Obsessing over irrelevant technical minutiae of industrial organization seems like a waste of everyone's time The resulting elephantine size of the book is not warranted by the slimness of the original contribution and it feels like a mismatch for a middle brow book looking for a wide audience Despite these faults Frey's tome synthesizes policy relevant material from a vast literature in a timely way that challenges several common assumptions It is written in a modestly engaging style that is serviceable for the dry and dismal task at hand As an assemblage of facts with a minimal layer of normative conclusions I would recommend the book to people who are econ nerds history nerds or best yet econ history nerds In a 2013 study Frey and his Oxford colleague Michael Osborne concluded that almost half of US jobs are at risk of being automated by AI and robots In this book Frey tells us what happened in the past when people’s livelihoods were threatened by machinesThe reader should be warned that this is a long book Frey includes an overview of the history of technology from the 1700s till now making some chapters feel like a condensed version of Robert Gordon’s The Rise and Fall of American Growth It’s not a bad summary but the best parts of this book describe how jobs and technology have collided in the pastHere are some of Frey’s key points• The key distinction to make with technology is whether it assists workers with their jobs making them productive or completely replaces workers eliminating their jobs While pattern recognition helps the dermatologist diagnose skin cancer it doesn’t replace the dermatologist However speech recognition used at the drive through at McDonald's and Taco Bell is designed to eliminate jobs The same is true for self driving trucks• Before the First Industrial Revolution workers typically resisted any technology that would put them out of work They usually won because the royals and landowners who held political power feared massive rebellion Following worker riots against automatic looms in Europe Germany prohibited the machines for 40 years Charles I banned the casting of buckets because he didn’t want to put the traditional craftsmen out of work Tsar Nicholas I would not even allow industrial exhibitions in order to prevent new ideas about factories from spreading• But during the First Industrial Revolution which began around 1769 Britain wanted to compete economically with other countries and British cities were competing against each other So when the silk and cotton textile industry built the first factories and automated the spinning and weaving processes the government protected them Parliament passed an act that made the destruction of machines a crime punishable by death The Luddites rioted and than 30 were hanged• Factory jobs were simplified so children could be the robots of the day In the 1830s over half of the workers in textile factories were children The lives of the displaced artisans suffered They lost income died earlier and the height of their children would be lower indicating malnutrition Ultimately the new factory productivity brought Britain great wealth But it took over 50 years for the average person to see the benefits come to them• The Second Industrial Revolution that took place in America beginning in the 1870s was a very different experience Electricity automobiles and mass production introduced new technology into the workplace But Frey believes most workers saw this technology as helping them not replacing them Wages and benefits rose for the middle class and income ineuality fell• Since 1980 wages for the middle class have fallen behind Unskilled factory jobs that reuire only a high school diploma have either been sent abroad or automated Frey thinks this trend will continue Jobs that reuire the least education and skills are the most likely to be automated by AI and robots Of note Frey does not believe we will see massive job losses anytime soon Instead he repeats Roy Amara’s famous adage “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run” This is a detailed book on the relationship between technology emergence how they are resisted or adopted and the eventual benefit to society if it occurs The book’s aim is to draw lessons from the past as we ponder how AI and automation will impact work employment and prosperity For anyone interested in the history of technology and its role in the improvement of our lives this is a wonderful read Neither are the prescriptions novel and nor does the author profess that they will surely work This tentativeness is a relief rather than a fault since it avoids trivializing the issues at hand with too uick an answer But the book is deep in analysis of a prolonged period while being specific enough on many technologies that have left a lasting impact The books cover the Roman period the middle ages and all the industrial revolutions The value is in the extraction of the main causes not in offering any uncovered and unexpected ideas Hence my short summary of this noncontroversial but useful book risks not giving it its due Rich examples and lucid prose make this an engaging read for the most part Some aspects that stood out for me are below in no logical order or scope We have accepted enabling technologies and rejected replacing technologies Technology’s impact on the ruling class especially in Europe played a key role in paving a path for it or not This is covered wonderfully especially in how those in power felt that technologies need to be allowed and nurtured for their country to compete in an increasingly global economy Each of these technologies and their growth are covered well agriculture printing press steam power automobiles electricity automation and I am sure I miss a few Electricity had a significant impact on the American household and other countries their work freeing up of women’s time and their subseuent entry into the workforce The advent of automobiles and how it opened up new needs and possibilities and eventually boosted the economy The relationship between technology emergence creation of new economic opportunities need for new skills and their development and economic prosperity Deftly and in detail he draws how the enabling technologies take a different path from replacing technologies The emergence of the middle class their congregation in cities them being treated as a voting block to be wooed compared to the agricultural workers who have been displaced He also has some interesting ideas on big cities vs small cities racial history of unions and its impact Some of his ideas provide an alternate not contradictory angle to the issues that Francis Fukayama addressed in Identity The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment my earlier review here He urges us to take that threat posed by AI and automation seriously His recommendations include education deeper engagement by policymakers and subsidies like earned income credit His policy prescriptions are tame and hint whether knowingly or not that while history can help us prepare it does not provide sure answers If a technology destroys some jobs it will make jobs elsewhere This was true for the past hundred years in the US during the Second Industrial Revolution but it wasn't true in England during the First Industrial Revolution And it looks like advances in AI will cause displacement and unemployment and not an abundance of new jobs This book served as a good overview of the past four hundred years of technological change and gave good vignettes of what worker's lives were like in different periods The main theses are as followsThere are two types of technologies labor replacing and labor augmenting Throughout history technology was assumed to be labor replacing and so was opposed by elites to prevent social upheaval by those put out of work eg Roman emperors executed some inventors for this reason Then trade led to wealth and therefore political power among the merchant classes and interstate competition meant that technological progress was necessary for military and political strength The British state supported the introduction of labor replacing technologies and sent troops to uell the Luddite riots than they did against Napoleon These first technologies hollowed out the middle class by replacing skilled artisans by child labor Then machines became complex and semi skilled labor became valuable and average wages finally started to increase after 5 8 decades of stagnationThe second industrial revolution also reuired semi skilled labor and led to average wages following productivity increases and a broad increase in the size of the middle classUnfortunately since the 1970s and the computer revolution and now with the rise of AI semi skilled middle class jobs are again being automated or globalized away leading to a hollowing out of the middle class as in the beginning of the first industrial revolution The main conceptual idea from the book is a uadrant with labor replacing and labor augmenting on one side and a high or low supply of skilled workers from the education system on the otherThe first industrial revolution was labor replacing Then it became labor augmenting and there weren't enough skilled laborers so labor's wages increased Then the supply of skilled laborers increased and their wage premium went away but their wages tracked productivity increasesNow we have labor augmenting technologies that are only accessible by the highly skilled and our education system cannot produce enough supply leading to high wage premiums for the skilled And labor replacing technologies are removing middle class jobs for the semi skilled Overall this book gave me a great frame work to understand the broad forces of technological progress and their effects on society and gave me strong arguments to be worried about the near term future

The Technology Trap ePUB æ The Technology  PDF/EPUB
  • Hardcover
  • 480 pages
  • The Technology Trap
  • Carl Benedikt Frey
  • English
  • 22 October 2016
  • 9780691172798