Automation and the Balance of Power

tags: workers

There’s not a lot new in this New York Times piece from April, but this quote is a good summation of the problem.

This is the way technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers’ dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Many technological developments contribute to this shift in power: advanced diagnostic systems that can do medical or legal analysis; the ability to outsource labor to the lowest-paid workers, measure employee tasks to the minute and “optimize” worker schedules in a way that devastates ordinary lives. Indeed, regardless of whether unemployment has gone up or down, real wages have been stagnant or declining in the United States for decades. Most people no longer have the leverage to bargain.

The theme of the article is that technological progress clearly shifts power to the employer and away from the employee. The more than employees are dispensable, the more employers can use that fact to reduce wages and do otherwise undesirable things to them.

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