The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation retraces the introduction of various technological changes from the Industrial Revolution to today, looking that the effect on workers, corporations, and governments. We know that technology has an overall beneficial effect on our lives, but it also brings spectacular changes in the kinds of work people do, along with economic ruin to those individuals whose jobs simply vanish.
It’s interesting to see how earlier technological revolutions were resisted, sometimes forbidden, by law (temporarily), and eventually legislated to impose some controls and safeguard, but always after the fact. It is also striking to see how benefits accrue sometimes to workers, and sometimes to capital. The author tries to apply the lessons of the past to the current AI revolution, and as we know predicting the future is a really tough job. One area he highlights that I had not thought about is housing and zoning. For all the talk about workers learning new skills, they do need to live in areas where the new jobs are, and today zoning laws make housing in “hot” areas very expensive indeed. Sometimes for the political class to think about.