Don’t worry, computers are just causing a class war

On the contrary, as this book will argue, the digital revolution is very much like the industrial revolution. And the experience of the industrial revolution tells us that society must go through a period of wrenching political change before it can agree on a broadly acceptable social system for sharing the fruits of this new technological world. It is unfortunate, but those groups that benefit most from the changing economy tend not to willingly share their riches; social change occurs when losing groups find ways to wield social and political power, to demand a better share. The question we ought to be worried about now is not simply what policies need to be adopted to make life better in this technological future, but how to manage the fierce social battle, only just beginning, that will determine who gets what and by what mechanism.

Underlying the problem is rich people putting all their money under the mattress. Their wealth isn’t flowing down to the rest of the people. These wealthy folks have worked hard, and feel like they’re owed all that money (rather than having taken away by high taxes and redistributed); or, at least, they feel others are not deserving.

However, as the book goes into say, this mind-set ignores how a functioning society enables that success in the first place, and now sustains it:

A makers-and-takers conception of the world is one that neglects the social foundation on which wealth is built. We aren’t merely divided into makers and takers. We are participants in societies, operating according to a broad social consensus. When that consensus breaks down, the wealth goes away. Society either agrees a way to share its riches that most members find acceptable, or the system fractures and the social wealth available to everyone shrinks.

Source: The Wealth of Humans: Work, Power, and Status in the Twenty-first Century by Ryan Avent.

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