The Tech Boom and the Fate of Democracy: Ars Technica Live: Definitely Not My Morning Coffee

Definitely Not My Morning Coffee: Ars Technica Live: Annalee Newitz and Brad DeLong: The Tech Boom and the Fate of Democracy "Ars Technica Live #21... Filmed by Chris Schodt, produced by Justin Wolfson...

Annalee writes: "Last week, we had lots of questions about the fate of democracy in a world where the Internet feeds us propaganda faster than we can fact check it...

...Luckily, Ars Technica Live featured guest Bradford DeLong, an economist who has spent his career studying tech and industrial revolutions, as well as the connections between economics and democracy. So we had a lot to discuss, and the result is the longest Ars Technica Live episode ever.

Brad worked in the US Treasury department during the Clinton administration, and he's a professor at UC Berkeley. So he's familiar with economic theory and history, as well as what happens when the rubber meets the road in trade agreements, regulations, and policy.

First, we talked about what a "tech boom" is and how they happen. Brad took us on a trip back through history and explained how even the invention of horseback riding created social ruptures and job loss. He also explained that tech and industrial revolutions in the modern world are often correlated with new ways of communicating and publishing. So the Facebook scandal is, in a sense, nothing new. "Our brains and societies are being hacked in different ways," Brad said, but the pattern is the same.

We discussed automation and whether the rise of robots and algorithms means widespread unemployment or social unrest. Brad discussed a number of examples of how technology had changed jobs in the past and what we're likely to see as we move into the future. He believes that as some jobs are taken over by automation, new jobs are likely to emerge that only humans can do. We also had a really strange conversation in there about how, one day, I will be replaced by a robot and Brad will hire "someone like Oprah" to talk to him for 30 minutes a day about culture.

Finally, after many twists and turns, we talked about the current political climate in the US and how it's affecting the health of the tech economy. Brad described the Trans-Pacific Partnership and why we need it to protect our industries. He also made a lot of dark references to King Henry VIII. We took a few questions from the audience, and a great (if somewhat dystopian) evening was had by all.

Ars Technica Live is filmed before a live audience at Eli's Mile High Club in Oakland, California on the second Wednesday of every month. Our next guest is entomologist Neil Tsutsui, who will talk about the secret lives of bees and ants. Find out more here.

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