My Notes on “When the Robots Rise“, by Lee Drutman and Yasha Mounk

Robots, AI, and automation (RAA) are coming fast. It’s already here in many forms and will expand rapidly in the next five to ten years. Ten years may seem a long time, but 9/11 happened fifteen years ago. RAA won’t just change the way things are made; RAA will change our society completely.

None of the current political parties or politicians are discussing (or even aware) of RAA. Hillary Clinton’s emails troubles reveal how clueless she is about technology. Trump and the GOP aren’t much better. Trump can use Twitter like a teenager, but knows nothing about how the web works.

But those are minor issues: what matters is the overall implications of RAA for economics and politics. US politicians are locked in political arguments over the New Deal model (the pre-1970s model) or Neoliberalism (US policy from the late 1970s). After 40 years of neoliberalism, we see the results: it made the 2% very wealthy and ripped jobs out of the economy. Despite Trump’s promises, it’s impossible to go back to the industrialized economy of 1940s to the 1970s because the factories don’t exist anymore and if they were built now, they’d be built in China.

It’s clear that when RAA becomes widespread, US politics will change completely. There will be no more Democrats or Republicans, no more Left vs. Right, no more conservatives vs. liberals. Because all of those oppositions are based on obsolete economic systems of the 1900s.

Drutman and Mounk’s essay makes the following point:

“The current crop of politicians may talk up job creation—but polls also show that most Americans don’t like their jobs. As one recent Gallup poll found, nearly 90 percent of workers described themselves as either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” from their work. A politician who would advocate unleashing the robots, promising a combination of generous welfare benefits, and a radically shortened workweek—or even a universal basic income—might quickly build a substantial following.”

No one predicted Donald Trump would become the presidential candidate. No one realized he would carry out a hostile takeover of the GOP. The Washington GOP tried very hard to stop him, but he won the vote. Nearly half of the US population supports Trump and another 25% could easily switch to him because they despise the “Washington Consensus”, the general term for what goes on in Washington: politicians at the national level (state governors, Congressional representatives, senators, etc.), Wall Street bankers, the US military, and Ivy League white collar professionals (lawyers, professors, etc.), which are the 10% who benefit from globalization, financialization, and technologization. This brings back that word we used in the 60s: The Establishment. Everyone else are Trump supporters.

That’s why the experts could not predict Trump; they have nothing to do with anyone outside of the Washington Consensus. They assumed the GOP would use its power to block Trump. But unhappy GOP voters revolted against their Republican Party leadership.

The Democrat Party has the same problem. Bernie Sanders came close to upsetting Hillary Clinton. Democrat voters and independents will vote, but not for Hillary; they will vote against Trump. Hillary may win 2016, but she will have a very difficult time in 2020. I doubt any current Democrat politician will win 2020. The party will face the same revolt that happened to the GOP.

The same situation happened in the UK when Brexit voters chose to leave the European Union. Despite strong assurance from the pro-EU side (politicians, bankers, industry, academics, experts, etc.), the general population felt in their personal lives the EU was not in their interests.

Practically every Silicon Valley startup is based on how to get rid of jobs.

What will happen with RAA? Researchers estimate RAA will take over 48% of current jobs. The US population will be sharply divided into the groups: 50% or more unemployed versus the ultra-wealthy. The 2% will have 60% or more of all the wealth so they will own everything worth owning: every company, building, store, all of the large-scale rental housing, everything. What about those who will have jobs? Remember, 90% of workers dislike their jobs and companies. This happened economic situation happened in the mid-1800s and the politics became a fight of factory owners versus workers. The workers defended themselves by organizing. That’s right: capitalists vs. communists. In that fight, the workers lost. We’ll see what happens this time.