A Silicon Valley computer engineer and entrepreneur, Martin Ford is author of Light in the Tunnel and Rise of the Robots, which consider the role of technology in the current global crisis. In Ford’s business, he saw that jobs involved in the production and shipping of physical media and manuals had been eliminated by direct downloading of software. He believes the problem will worsen as computers now can “learn from their experience and they can get better and better.” Citing lawyers and radiologists in particular, Ford points out that even some highly skilled people are not immune to losing their jobs to technology.
When diminishing employment opportunities are coupled with technology’s vast increase of productivity and output, there will be a significant reduction in purchasing of goods. Ford sees a time when “everyone is going to be impacted because even if you own a business, ultimately you sell something.”
In looking at possible solutions Ford says, “I favor some form of a guaranteed income. Ultimately I don’t think there’s going to be any other choice.” In disagreeing with those who claim this is “socialism,” he points out that it actually is a “market-oriented approach” since its goal is to enable ordinary people to participate in the market. This is not the same as government’s giving services, housing or food to the people. In addition, Ford advocates viewing technological progress as a “public resource that ought to belong to everyone.” He reasons that the wealth being generated by new companies is built on previous “influential technology” and is actually the result of “accumulated progress. “
Ford’s interview concludes with the dire warning that we are now facing a “gridlock situation” in which “powerful elites who don’t perceive the same threats to their own livelihoods” are unwilling to focus on the problem.