The rise of demagogues in the age of technological disruption > /brain/dump

06:54AM Nov 24, 2016 in category General by Zoltan Farkas

I thought I will never write on my blog about politics, but recent events triggered this brain dump…


We have been living in the age of technological disruption for a while now. As with any disruptions there will be winners and losers and quite often historically the repercussions have been severe, weavers smashed stocking frames, rebellions/revolutions with deadly consequences, … (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite).


In the past few decades, technological advancements (like the internet, faster and cheaper computers, sensors, better programming languages, etc..) accelerated the speed of disruption and caught a lot of people unprepared for the new world. There are plenty of jobs, the problem is that they don’t match the skill-set of the unemployed population.


Right now in the UK and the US this dislocation resulted in Brexit + Trump. In both cases demagogues with generic promises like “bring jobs back” and nationalistic slogans like “[your nationality here] first” won the election. Although the motivation of the vote was similar (blame globalization), people voted for very different paths. (California voting to secede from the union to better fund Obama-care would be a closer comparison to Brexit…).


Although Brexit might not actually happen (I don’t think the goals of the separatist side are achievable and 51.9% is not really a “overwhelming support” as some say, another referendum with a different turnout and the “overwhelming support” can be for the opposite), Trump will happen… and my only hope is that the limits of presidential power will stop the nonsensical ideas that were floated by the Trump campaign, and maybe the few good ones will get through. (unlikely congress will vote to limit their own terms... and there is no reason to believe anything that was said...)


Thing is, more dislocation is on the horizon, are you a truck driver? bus driver? taxi driver? Your job might not be there for long. And globalization will have nothing to do with it. There will be a lot of new jobs that these dislocations will create… you just need to have the skill and the willingness to relocate…


I have recently watched a excellent presentation “Types vs Tests” (https://www.infoq.com/presentations/Types-Tests), and found out that one of the presenters (Amanda Laucher) is teaching computer programming to coal miners (http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/22/news/economy/coal-workers-computer-coders/). This is what we need, not more coal mining jobs, coal mining was always dangerous and I would prefer sending robots into the deep of the earth and avoid the dramatic results of mining accidents. Kudos for Amanda and her husband, they are a good example on what can be done.


Do we want to prop up the dying industries of yesterday instead of investing in the industries of tomorrow?


I also don’t understand the anti-environmental rhetoric, I don’t want to live in a country that does not care about the environment, I don’t want to breathe dirty air, I don’t want to drink dirty water (Do people in Flint Michigan like their water?), I don’t want to eat produce grown in a polluted environment, I don’t want to swim in water polluted by an oil spill. Not too long ago, after arriving in Germany, the controversial artist Ai Wei Wei said “The light is so beautiful and the air is so clear. It seems surreal to me. Sometimes I feel like I could cry.” (http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/artist-ai-weiwei-has-left-china-for-germany-a-1047793.html). Do we really want to travel (if not immigrate) to other parts of the world to see clear skies and breathe clean air?


We are all either immigrants or descendants of immigrants, we should “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”, we have to keep in mind that any one of us can become immigrants in the future…


And now let’s celebrate by eating that turkey!

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