Tuesday, September 10, 2013

At the intersection of technology, jobs and inequality

A pretty pessimistic view off TechCrunch from a venture capitalist. Will more jobs will be created or destroyed as a result of the recent wave of technology? (TechCrunch)

First, big-data factories employ many fewer people than their meatspace equivalents of yore. Ford at one point employed 700,000 people. Now Apple, at times the most valuable company in the world, employs only 80,000 people worldwide including its retail staff. Data factories don’t create nearly as many middle-class jobs.

Instead, the data factories get free labor. They distribute what seem like useful services to the world, things like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Etsy, or Kickstarter. Those services help people share, connect, find jobs, sell their own goods, or fund a project. But in actuality, they also collect troves of data and earn tons of money for the tech giants without forcing them to do much work. That money stays concentrated around the data factories and their limited staff instead of distributing it like traditional factories.

What’s the impact? “It means that life is very tough for most everyone in America” says Moritz. That’s not just some ambiguous sense of hardship. The median American household has stagnated. The absolute minimum wage value has decreased significantly. “It’s tough if you’re poor, it’s tough if you’re middle class. It means you have to have the right education to work at [the tech giants]. If you’re not like us, it’s tough” said the highly successful venture capitalist.
As a starting point, I'd point out there's been a lot of other things happening along with the proliferation of the success of these tech companies... but as I've pointed out, I'm sympathetic to something like a basic income so long as you actually get ride of the many things (like minimum wage and welfare) it would replace.

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