This is a repost from Tony Ferguson’s Blog Battling Entropy. See the full Battling Entropy blog site here.
You can see Stephen Hawking’s recent opinion piece in the Guardian here. He is talking about the social fragmentation of our world, not physical, but as he says
We can’t go on ignoring inequality, because we have the means to destroy our world but not to escape it
Hawking makes the point that the internet, and the platforms it makes possible, create the opportunity for a few people to create enormous wealth while employing very few people. As Hawking says “This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”
Put this alongside the social and economic damage caused by the GFC (which we underestimate from our Australian perspective because we were largely spared its impact) and it is clear why so many people around the world have had enough.
The automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.
In the face of this, the solutions put forward by the populists – nationalism, isolationism and turning back the clock – are perhaps understandable but frankly counterproductive. In the face of an existential threat humanity needs to pull together, not fragment. Just one example of why isolationism is the wrong approach to increasing inequality is the need for a global approach to imposing a fair tax burden on the world’s billionaires and major corporations. Wealth derived from the tech sector is largely borderless. The developer of a wildly successful piece of software can equally sit in California, Sydney or the Bahamas to reap the benefits. The problem of climate change is similarly only properly addressable through a global approach.
Not a good time for our governments to be retreating within their borders! And an even worse time for political leaders to be spending their energies in ever more frenzied attacks on each other – defending their entrenched dogmas instead of working together to create some real solutions.
How does all of this have relevance to Australia? In my experience, we Aussies have a deeply embedded egalitarianism and a highly developed sense of the “fair go”. Our location, far from the world’s major centres, has made us a worldly lot – far more so than Americans. In a world where Britain and the US are abrogating global leadership perhaps we need to take some?
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