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A public policy blog from AEI
I’ve been writing quite a bit about the emerging anti-tech backlash. One variant of this phenomenon opposes the political and economic power of Big Tech. It’s just too much! The “Better Deal” policy agenda put forward by congressional Democrats doesn’t directly talk about Silicon Valley, but there are a couple of nudges in that direction. This reflects the desire of some progressives to regulate the big platform companies and/or take antitrust action against them. But it’s not just egalitarian Democrats. Over on the populist right, at least according to this Intercept story, you have Trump White House adviser Steven Bannon pushing for Google and Facebook to be regulated as utilities.
Another backlash variant has been generated by fears that AI and robots will cause mass technological unemployment. From Endgadget earlier this year:
New York’s Upstate Transportation Association and Independent Drivers Guild are both pressing for bans on autonomous vehicles in the state out of concern that they’ll ultimately cost thousands of transportation jobs. The IDG believes that it only needs to preserve existing laws to guarantee a ban, but the UTA is considerably more aggressive — it wants a 50-year ban on self-driving cars. Yes, there’s a real chance you wouldn’t even be alive to see the day when driverless rides hit New York roads.
And this today from Bloomberg:
Labor unions are urging a slowdown as lawmakers fast track legislation to allow self-driving vehicles on the road, a potential boon to some union jobs and an existential threat to others.
The House Energy & Commerce committee Thursday advanced legislation on a 54-0 vote that would begin the process of changing regulations to allow cars and trucks that operate without human drivers. Similar legislation is being developed in the Senate with rare bipartisan support, an effort supported by automakers such as Ford Motor Co.and Tesla Inc. as well as technology firms Alphabet Inc., Lyft Inc. and others that are developing the vehicles.
Proponents tout benefits like enhanced safety and improved mobility for seniors and the disabled. But the implications for workers could be significant: Jobs associated with making the vehicles may grow, but commercial drivers could find themselves unemployed. …
Demand for autonomous cars could be a boon for United Auto Workers at the U.S. plants of General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV, said Gary Chaison, professor emeritus at Clark University specializing in labor and industrial relations.
Yet for members of the Teamsters autonomous technology presents “a very serious problem,” Chaison said. “Whenever anyone talks about delivery by drone or delivery by automated automobile, then I think you’re talking about the elimination of unionized jobs because of technological change.”
Self-driving vehicles, especially trucks, is one area in particular where worker fears seem overblown. Then you have the 40,000 dead annually on US roads. (And the figure is rising.) Tough to argue against that stat. But backlash against automated vehicles and other new technologies will continue to happen as that tech is seen as endangering current jobs and lifestyle choices.
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