Business et Finance
Project Syndicate

Project Syndicate Spring 2020: Beyond the Techlash

After years of growing suspicion toward the latest wave of digital technologies and the companies and governments that control them, Beyond the Techlash brings together economists, technologists, policymakers, and business leaders to consider how the lost promise of twenty-first-century innovation can be reclaimed.

United States
Project Syndicate
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3 min.

In the early years of the Internet and the digital economy, the new era’s protagonists imagined that they were ushering in a freer, fairer, more democratic stage of human development. Bolstered by visions of benign global interconnectivity, zero-marginal-cost production, online civic engagement, and new forms of social capital, their work seemed to call forth a revolution built on optimism, not outrage. BUT THE UNALLOYED HOPES THAT initially accompanied the digital revolution proved unsustainable. Today, despite its very real benefits, digital technology – or at least Big Tech – is associated with breaches of privacy and the public trust, market concentration, labor-replacing automation, threats to free and fair elections, and new forms of warfare. The same technologies that have transformed retail, health care, education, and much more also have given rise to…

5 min.
economics, disrupted

Just within the past few decades, digital technology has transformed the global economy and societies worldwide multiple times. In the 1980s, the automation of manufacturing produced waves of outsourcing and offshoring. In 1989, computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web, and beginning around 2007, a confluence of smartphones, 3G/4G, and new algorithms brought much of the world’s population online, where we have been living ever since. WITH THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES HAVE come global production chains, e-commerce, social media, and the platform economy. And owing to advances in artificial intelligence, genomics, additive manufacturing, the green transition, and advanced materials, an even broader transformation is still on the horizon. During such periods of change, there are always more questions than answers for policymakers and academics alike. Each wave of digital disruption…

5 min.
how the other half automates

Although experts disagree about whether artificial intelligence will reach human-like levels anytime soon, few doubt that the field will make major advances in the coming years. In the West, how AI will affect workers is already fueling growing concern, with some warning that millions of jobs will be automated. Yet even if such predictions turn out to be alarmist (or industry hype), increased awareness of AI and its implications suggests that advanced economies will be better prepared for whatever is coming. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE BILLIONS OF workers in the developing world? Even though the threats and opportunities associated with AI are equally significant in these economies, much less has been written about them. Just a few companies in advanced economies are shaping the current direction of AI development, with the American…

4 min.
empowering africa's digital entrepreneurs

Not long ago, big data, the Internet of Things, and artificial intelligence seemed closer to science fiction than reality. And yet, today, these technologies underpin services, products, and solutions that shape virtually every aspect of our lives, from how we communicate and consume information to the ways we save and spend money. But access to them remains uneven, leaving some regions – especially Africa – struggling to seize the opportunities of the technologies driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution. THE FOURTH INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION differs from the previous three in important ways. Past industrial revolutions – defined by the rise of steam and coal power, mass production, and digital technology, respectively – had clear boundaries, each transforming a particular set of activities separately. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, by contrast, is all-encompassing, and creates new…

5 min.
resurrect antitrust

America’s Gilded Age in the late nineteenth century began with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction – but culminated in mammoth trusts owned by “robber barons” who used their wealth and power to drive out competitors, and then to corrupt American politics. WE ARE NOW IN A SECOND GILDED AGE – ushered in by semiconductors, software, and the Internet – and a handful of technology giants are the new robber barons. Facebook and Google now dominate the online advertising market, while the advertising revenue going to newspapers, network television, and other newsgathering agencies continues to decline. Google also hosts two-thirds of all Internet searches in the United States, and is so dominant that “to google” has long since become a commonly used verb. In 2006, Google acquired the…

5 min.
the digital gilded age’s natural allies

More than at any time in decades, reforms to both antitrust and labor law are being debated in law and policy circles. In the United States, a surge of worker organizing and collective action across a range of sectors – education, media, tech – has coincided with a wave of antimonopoly initiatives. The emerging left wing of the Democratic Party champions both labor and antimonopoly politics. THESE TWO TENDENCIES HAVE ARISEN in response to the same decades-long trends: increasing economic inequality, the disempowerment of ordinary working people, and the unchecked concentration of power in the hands of a few individuals and corporations who are now making decisions on behalf of society as a whole. One key question, then, is to what extent the two reformist tendencies are compatible. Some would argue that…