As technology continues to advance output and productivity, it is also exacerbating economic inequality at levels never before seen by humankind, says writer/economist Christia Freeland. In this passionate and informative TED Talk, she charts the rise of the new class of plutocrats (those who have amassed extreme power due to their great wealth), and makes the case that globalization and new technology are actually fueling, rather than shortening, the global wealth/income gap.
While it makes intuitive sense that advances in technology would actually allow us to feed and provide shelter for the more humans, the reality is that this new plutocracy is is using technological advances to their own competitive advantage, leaving a much smaller “slice of the pie” for the global working-class.
As Freeland has written, “Before the recession, it was relatively easy to ignore this concentration of wealth among an elite few. The wondrous inventions of the modern economy—Google, Amazon, the iPhone—broadly improved the lives of middle-class consumers, even as they made a tiny subset of entrepreneurs hugely wealthy. And the less-wondrous inventions—particularly the explosion of subprime credit—helped mask the rise of income inequality for many of those whose earnings were stagnant.
But the financial crisis and its long, dismal aftermath have changed all that. A multibillion-dollar bailout and Wall Street’s swift, subsequent reinstatement of gargantuan bonuses have inspired a narrative of parasitic bankers and other elites rigging the game for their own benefit. And this, in turn, has led to wider—and not unreasonable—fears that we are living in not merely a plutonomy, but a plutocracy, in which the rich display outsize political influence, narrowly self-interested motives, and a casual indifference to anyone outside their own rarefied economic bubble.”
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