On the PBS NewsHour, Thurdays, January 2, 2013, there was the following exchange between Jaron Lanier and Andrew Mcafee on the impact of technically advances that are radically changing our way of life and economy:
“The economy has to be honest. And so what I am concerned about is that by getting everybody to input all their productivity for free to these Silicon Valley companies, including the one that funds my lab…but in order to pretend that all this stuff, you know, it comes in for free, and what we give people in exchange is access to services, we're taking them out of the economic cycle…..
We're putting them into an informal economy, which is an unbalanced way to grow a society. And that's also a road to ruin. I'm not asking for artificial make-work projects. I'm asking for honesty, where we acknowledge when people generate value, and make them first-class economic citizens.”
To which Mr. Mcaffe responded…”would you charge my brother to upload pictures of his daughters to Facebook, or would you charge me to look at my nieces….“
The fear is that our economy is producing a two-tier system where a wealthy, technologically proficient elite enjoys all the benefits of our society while everyone else rots in inescapable poverty. Part of the driving force behind this type of disparity is the tendencies of social media and crowd sourcing tech firms to utilize free user input to develop programs and technologies that undermine and negate the need for professional human services that these technologies learn from, i.e. destroy viable sources of income for a lot of people for necessary services. While Mr. Lanier is correct that our technology based economy is focused far too much on finding ways for people to consume more and far too little on finding ways for people to get paid enough for their work, so they can afford their needs and enjoy the benefits of our society/technology, Mr. Mcaffee’s response suggests fixing the unsustainably and economic disparity/poverty created by our current economic system is a very tough problem, especially considering technology jobs and jobs destroyed or undermined by advanced technologies are generally better paying jobs. In fact, the solutions are far from apparent, especially considering ad revenue, which feeds much of the online tech giants’ activities, is little for the massive numbers of small internet users trying to make an income online. Finding solutions, however, starts with recognizing technology is creating economic and social problems while a stable, balanced economy can only be built if our social/technology leaders are willing to take on the problem.
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