Susskind declares that machines are getting so smart that they’ll soon replace humans at a growing list of jobs, potentially including doctors, bricklayers and insurance adjusters ... Without some sort of intervention, he says, the inequality inherent in today’s economy will metastasize into an even greater divide between the haves and have-nots. This argument flies against the face of much modern economic thought ... the book should be required reading for any potential presidential candidate thinking about the economy of the future. That’s because Susskind also turns to one of the biggest consequences of technological change — inequality — and what can be done about it. 'Today’s inequalities are the birth pangs of tomorrow’s technological unemployment,' Susskind writes, and he has a point ... Even if Susskind’s prediction is wrong — that machines will soon render many humans irrelevant in the labor market — his book provides a useful exercise in planning for a more unequal future.
Susskind’s core thesis — that we are heading towards a world in which human work will become obsolete — is built on his supposition that most of the conventional notions about AI learning have been wrong ... Not all technologists or economists agree that AI will be nearly as disruptive to human labour as Susskind posits ... Still, there are plenty of people in the post-work world camp, including many of those at the top of the tech food chain. The parts of Susskind’s book that are most interesting and useful are those that grapple with how society should respond to that world.
It’s the 'robots are coming for your jobs' argument, and it’s often offered as a comeback to the 'immigrants are coming for your jobs' nationalism so prevalent these days, missing the fact that the real threat comes from neither machines nor migrants but management ... That’s one of the major failings of Susskind’s book—he treats so much of history as a trajectory that simply happened, as if no human decision-making went into what kinds of machines to build or how to implement them in the workplace. He compresses the history of capitalism—with a bloody record of enclosing the commons, accumulation by dispossession, slavery, and rebellion after rebellion—into one where, 'when machines drove human beings from a traditional life on the fields, those people transitioned into manufacturing with relative ease' ... descriptions simplistic enough for a social-studies textbook are unworthy of his subject matter. When he turns to technology itself, Susskind is more willing to dig in to tougher arguments ... He has a technocrat’s preoccupation with individual intelligence ... Susskind doesn’t dare to imagine a world beyond capitalism, but his dreamiest ambition...echoes, perhaps unconsciously, Marx’s famous line, 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.'