Review: Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford

In the early 1960s, a coalition of academics, journalists, technologists, including Nobel Prize Winners Linus Pauling in chemistry and Gunnar Myrdal in economic sciences, submitted a report to President Lyndon Johnson that described a “triple revolution.” “Two of the revolutionary forces identified in the report — nuclear weapons and the civil rights movements — are indelibly woven into the historical narrative of the 1960s,” writes Martin Ford in Rise of the Robots. “The third revolution, which comprised the bulk of the document’s text, has largely been forgotten.” In their report to Johnson, the authors warned of an economy based on machines, not humans, with the result being, Ford writes, “massive unemployment, soaring inequality and, ultimately, falling demand for goods and services as consumers increasingly lacked the purchasing power necessary to continue driving economic growth.”

The central thesis of Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, is that the world can no longer afford to ignore this third revolution. It is here, now. In his detailed, wide-ranging book, Ford, a software entrepreneur and writer, points to the economic markers that bolster his pessimistic vision of the future. For example, starting in the 1970s and contrary to all that had happened before, increase in productivity stopped translating into increased wages — just one of seven deadly economic trends that Martin attributes to advances in information technology.

Creative destruction may be a comforting hypothesis, writes Ford — yes, the horse-and-buggy industries disappeared, but they were replaced by the massive automobile industries. The new companies of the digital industry…….(click here to read the full review)