Robin Hanson Reviews Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future

Seeing dark omens of catastrophe in new tech demos.


Rise of the Robots
Rise of the Robots

Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, by Martin Ford, Basic Books, 352 pages, $28.99

Martin Ford, author of Rise of the Robots, doesn't like the recent increase in U.S. wage inequality. So he wants to tax the rich more, to fund a basic income guarantee for the poor. (But only the U.S. poor. Other poor don't seem to concern him.)

Maybe you think you've heard this story before. But Ford, a software engineer and businessman, doesn't argue that inequality is unethical or that it will destroy democracy. He instead argues that inequality will soon get much worse, so bad that most adults won't be able to find jobs. So bad the economy will descend into "catastrophe." And all because of robots.

Now, Ford wants to reassure you that he isn't crazy. He isn't one of those people who see robots with human-level intelligence coming soon and superintelligent terminators killing us all soon after. No, Ford just thinks that dumb robots specialized for particular jobs are quite enough reason to panic, writes Robin Hanson.