Picture credit to: Ståle Grut / NRKbeta

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), during a talk at SXSW, was addressed by a tech entrepreneur with a question about automation (how should we act as a society and how will we be able to find a purpose in life as jobs are appropriate by machines).

AOC’s answer placed automation in the broader context of socio-economic inequality: automation is not the problem, and we shouldn’t be haunted by its specter, but rather be excited about it. The problem, AOC states, is that “(…) we live in a society where if you don’t have a job you are left to die (…)”.

The risk is in the reinforcement of the trends that are already occurring with the “automation of injustice”.  Automation accelerates economic inequality, she says, and we should be concerned about fixing the current socio-economic system: we are at the most prosperous time in our history, but many are left behind, thus it is imperative for us to figure out new ways to administrate wealth.

While AOC did not address Universal Basic Income (UBI) directly, her view on the matter seems compatible with those seeing it as the necessary answer to the fourth industrial revolution.

Whether the solution is “taxing robots” as proposed by Bill Gates (which AOC considers a clever, acceptable way to suggest taxing corporations), higher tax rates on top income brackets, or some form of wealth redistribution, we need to entertain ideas that would leave us with the possibility to siphon off the benefits brought by automation. It could give us the potential to focus more on studying, inventing and creating art: “Not all creativity should be bound by wage,” she says.

By entering a time in which scarcity is no longer the only reality known to man, and with capitalism being based on scarcity, “our technological advancement as a society has outpaced our system for handling finite resources”, AOC states.

If the system was not broken, people could already be working less, and focus on activities which are currently not considered work, but that would nonetheless benefit individuals and society. But money is appropriated by corporate greed:

We’re paid on how little we’re desperate enough to accept. And then the rest is skimmed off and given to a billionaire.”

More information at:

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | SXSW 2019, YouTube

Adi Robertson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says ‘we should be excited about automation’, The Verge, March 10th 2019.

About Daniele Fabbri

Daniele Fabbri has written 22 articles.