Around the world, technology is disrupting the workforce, with automation poised to displace humans in the fields of medicine, agriculture, and beyond. Will the rise of robots fuel a new wave of “us versus them” populism capable of undermining democracy? For some, the answer is yes. They argue that as people lose jobs to robots, the gap between the rich and poor widens, distrust in government and democratic institutions grows, and populist ideas become more attractive to those who feel left behind. The importance of work trumps the importance of democracy, leaving a clear path for authoritarians to rise under nationalist messages that pit groups of people against one another. But others paint a different picture: They argue that humans have adapted to – and benefited from – new innovations for centuries. From the advent of water and steam power to computers, work has changed, but never disappeared. And as automation drives higher productivity growth, humans can reach their full potential and pursue societal innovation, allowing more citizens to feel fulfilled and strengthening democracy on the whole. Arguing for the motion is Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group with Yascha Mounk, author of "The People vs. Democracy." Arguing against the motion is Andrew Keen, author of "Tomorrows Versus Yesterdays" with Alina Polyakova, the David M. Rubenstein fellow at Brookings Institution. John Donvan moderates. This conversation was taped on May 14, 2018.
· The "us versus them" populism sweeping the Western world today is fueled by technological advancement: as low- and middle-skilled workers continue to lose jobs to automation, anger will manifest, leaving many concerned that democracy is no longer working in their favor.
· The promise of high-paying jobs won't have access to the training needed for the sophisticated jobs of the future. This will further widen wealth inequality and exacerbate the divide between globalization's winners and losers.
· Anti-democratic leaders promising to bring back jobs from immigrants and robots will continue to get elected over status quo candidates, further eroding democratic institutions and empowering the rise of authoritarian societies.
· Automation won't mean the end of work, just as the advent of steam power, electricity, and computers didn't mean the end of work. Through regulation, taxation, and innovative solutions like UBI, society can adapt to new technologies and assuage populist discontents.
· While automation will displace some workers, this won't affect the total number of available jobs: as technology continues to advance, newer higher-paying jobs will evolve, employing more people and making the "us versus them" message less appealing.
· Robots and other technological advances could save the global economy. As the global population ages and birth rates decline, automation can help reshape the future of work, filling demographic-driven job vacancies and staving off a labor shortage that could lead to democratic instability.