Luddite Redemption

Now just about all the C-level folks are weighing in on the question of underemployment, technology, A.I., and the singularity. Here is a brief report on Eric Schmidt’s most recent comments. As I have frequently seen, Schmidt makes reference to the loom, trying to argue about our future pathway, or how we should treat our possible futures, on the basis of the idea that the first industrial revolution worked out alright. I would love to remind the reader that history does indeed have lessons for us- if we care to really study history. Take that loom. There were at least 80 years of horrific poverty and unemployment. In fact, my university only exists because Andrew Carnegie’s father lost his job thanks to that loom, they couldn’t make ends meet, and left Scotland because there was nothing there, for generations. I suppose we might all just move to the moon and create institutions of higher learning there. But I am not sure that’s what Schmidt had in mind.

We must incorporate the short and the long view, sure. But remember that even the multigenerational long view has some quite stark lessons for us from the 1800’s.

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