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Automation Will Crash Democracy

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  • A Manual for Workplace Automation?

    Can history serve as a guide to dealing with workplace automation? Or do smart machines pose unprecedented challenges? Democracy scholar Yascha Mounk and internet entrepreneur Andrew Keen debate.

  • Robots: Job Killers or Creators?

    Will workplace automation lead to mass unemployment? Alina Polyakova, Andrew Keen, and Ian Bremmer discuss.

  • The International Automation Race

    The Chinese government has considerable control over the automation process in China. Can the U.S. keep up? Ian Bremmer and Alina Polyakova discuss.

  • Automation: A Consumer’s Choice?

    Ian Bremmer and Andrew Keen debate whether American companies will meet consumer, and citizen, demand when it comes to technology and workplace automation.

  • A Basic Income for the Robot Era?

    Should governments embrace a universal basic income to help combat unemployment due to workplace automation? Andrew Keen, Ian Bremmer, and Yascha Mounk discuss.

Debate Details

Automation Will Crash Democracy

Around the world, technology is disrupting the workforce, with automation poised to displace humans in the fields of medicine, agriculture, and beyond. Will the rise of robots fuel a new wave of “us versus them” populism capable of undermining democracy?

For some, the answer is yes. They argue that as people lose jobs to robots, the gap between the rich and poor widens, distrust in government and democratic institutions grows, and populist ideas become more attractive to those who feel left behind. The importance of work trumps the importance of democracy, leaving a clear path for authoritarians to rise under nationalist messages that pit groups of people against one another. But others paint a different picture: They argue that humans have adapted to – and benefited from – new innovations for centuries. From the advent of water and steam power to computers, work has changed, but never disappeared. And as automation drives higher productivity growth, humans can reach their full potential and pursue societal innovation, allowing more citizens to feel fulfilled and strengthening democracy on the whole.

The Debaters

For the motion

Ian Bremmer

Ian Bremmer

Founder and President, Eurasia Group

Ian Bremmer is the president and founder of Eurasia Group, the leading global political risk research and consulting firm, and president of GZERO... Read More

Yascha Mounk

Yascha Mounk

Lecturer, Harvard University & Senior Fellow, New America

Yascha Mounk is a lecturer on political theory at Harvard University, a senior fellow at New America, and a postdoctoral fellow at the German Marshall... Read More

Against the motion

Andrew Keen

Internet Entrepreneur & Author, How To Fix The Future

Andrew Keen is one of the world's best known and controversial commentators on the digital revolution. He is an internet entrepreneur and the author... Read More

Alina Polyakova

David M. Rubenstein Fellow, Brookings Institution

Alina Polyakova a fellow at the Brookings Institution and an adjunct professor of European studies at Johns Hopkins University. She specializes in... Read More

Where Do You Stand?

For The Motion
  • The “us versus them” populism sweeping the Western world today is fueled by technological advancement: As low- and middle-skilled workers continue to lose jobs to automation, anger will manifest, leaving many concerned that democracy is no longer working in their favor.
  • The promise of high-paying jobs in the era of automation is a pipe dream. Many who lose their jobs won’t have access to the training needed for the sophisticated jobs of the future. This will further widen wealth inequality and exacerbate the divide between globalization’s winners and losers. 
  • Anti-democratic leaders promising to bring back jobs from immigrants and robots will continue to get elected over status quo candidates, further eroding democratic institutions and empowering the rise of authoritarian societies.
Against The Motion
  • Automation won’t mean the end of work, just as the advent of steam power, electricity, and computers didn’t mean the end of work. Through regulation, taxation, and innovative solutions like UBI, society can adapt to new technologies and assuage populist discontents.
  • While automation will displace some workers, this won’t affect the total number of available jobs: As technology continues to advance, newer higher-paying jobs will evolve, employing more people and making the “us versus them” message less appealing.
  • Robots and other technological advances could save the global economy. As the global population ages and birth rates decline, automation can help reshape the future of work, filling demographic-driven job vacancies and staving off a labor shortage that could lead to democratic instability. 

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The Research

The Research

6 key findings on how Americans see the rise of automation

Monica Anderson
October 4, 2017

“A Pew Research Center survey conducted in May examines Americans’ attitudes about four emerging automation technologies: workplace automation, driverless cars, robot caregivers, and computer algorithms that evaluate and hire job applicants.”

Robots will not lead to fewer jobs – but the hollowing out of the middle class

Larry Elliott
August 20, 2017

“Perhaps the weak wage growth of recent years is telling us something, namely that technology is hollowing out the middle class and creating a bifurcated economy in which a small number of very rich people employ armies of poor people to cater for their every whim.”

Robots won't kill the workforce. They'll save the global economy.

Ruchir Sharma
December 2, 2016

“Across the world, the labor pool isn't growing fast enough to support our needs.”

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