Digital technology-driven automation and restructuring has been ongoing since the 1960s, most notoriously in the destruction of the printers’ unions by Rupert Murdoch in the 1980s.
Now, the impending ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ is creating widespread public anxiety about massive job losses caused by robots and software, and threats to workers rights as digital technology restructures the economy.
Some on the left have welcomed this trend, arguing that, with Universal Basic Income, automation can produce a post-work, or even ‘post-capitalist’ utopia.
Another left tradition, embodied by the Lucas Plan of the 1970s, argues for socially useful work and for putting human skills at the centre of production.
On 9th November 2017 we discussed these issues at a public event. There were three speakers followed by an open discussion.
Tahir Latif of PCS union described current challenges for workers facing automation in air traffic control:
Jim Benfield, of Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), talked about the Deliveroo strike and impact of digital technology in the gig economy:
Dave King of Breaking the Frame critiqued recent calls for ‘full automation’ from the left, and show how the Lucas Plan provides a better solution for the future: