EDITOR'S NOTE: In October 2017, BQO's M. Anthony Mills interviewed Paul McClure, a sociologist and author of the recent study 'You're Fired,' Says the Robot: The Rise of Automation in the Workplace, Technophobes, and Fears of Unemployment, which looks at how people are responding, emotionally and psychologically, to the new wave of automation that is transforming the nature of work.
There's a lot of debate these days about whether robots will (or have already begun to) take our jobs — what John Maynard Keynes dubbed “technological unemployment.” What, exactly, is technological unemployment and why are we hearing so much about it now?
Keynes introduced that expression in the midst of the Great Depression in a 1930 essay entitled, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren.” What Keynes was worried about then, I think, was the gradual replacement of human labor by machines. Today, with incredible advances in artificial intelligence, robotics, and machine learning software, we're seeing renewed interest in this economic concept. Bill Gates recently advocated a “robot tax” that would be levied on corporations that use robotics that replace human labor, and a proposal for universal basic income is being floated by others in the tech community for similar reasons.