President Obama touched on this issue when he was interviewed in Wired about artificial intelligence. Midway through the interview, he said, “One thing that we haven’t talked about too much, and I just want to go back to, is we really have to think through the economic implications. Because most people aren’t spending a lot of time right now worrying about singularity — they are worrying about ‘Well, is my job going to be replaced by a machine?’”
Obama’s observation gets at something else that drives blue-collar resentment: The sense that the culture has left them behind, and the elites that drive it look down on them and their lives. How many blue-collar workers do you think spend their time worrying about the singularity, an imagining of a theoretical time in which an artificial superintelligence overtakes human intelligence and, potentially, rules the world? How many have even heard of it? Yet the technical elite spend their time thinking about abstract issues like that, while not giving a moment’s thought to how their “disruptions” affect millions of people’s lives — or thinking how they can build technology that helps blue-collar lives, not destroys them.
Blue-collar workers in the Midwest and beyond know all about economic disruption, and for them it’s all been bad. So it’s no surprise that when it came time to vote, they voted for what they thought would be the ultimate political disruption to the economic status quo: Donald Trump. Who can blame them? Certainly not the tech industry, which has done everything it can to disrupt their lives, and very little to better them.
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