Carl Benedikt Frey, The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation


By Stanislav Ivanov

The Technology Trap: Capital, Labor, and Power in the Age of Automation by Carl Benedikt Frey (2019) Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, 465pp., $US30 (hardback) ISBN: 978-0-691-17279-8

Carl Benedikt Frey takes us on a historical journey through several centuries of technological progress to help us understand the political economy of technology, and its impacts on the nature of work, the labour market, the incomes of human employees, capital accumulation, economic development and social (in)equality. The book consists of 13 chapters grouped into five parts that shed light on technological progress before the industrial revolutions (Part I), during the first (Part II), second (Part III) and third (Part IV) industrial revolutions, and in the forthcoming age of artificial intelligence and robotics (Part V). Frey discusses how technological progress was blocked or stimulated by political elites and why populations resisted or embraced new technologies. He emphasizes the fact that attitudes towards technology depend on its impact on people’s livelihoods and wellbeing. The first industrial revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was driven largely by factory-based technologies that were replacing human employees, thus causing resistance and social unrest. The second industrial revolution brought technologies to people’s homes. The decades that followed it were the period of a growing middle class and improved quality of life for significant portions of the population, who showed little resistance to technology. After World War II, computers and industrial automation started to eliminate many blue- and whitecollar jobs. The newly created jobs were highly geographically concentrated. Advances in artificial intelligence and robotics raise additional challenges and threaten to replace many employees in the future. They are forcing governments to look for various solutions to the social and economic problems that automation is causing.

page: 86 – 90
Prometheus: Critical Studies in Innovation Volume 37, Issue 1
SKU: 370109

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