The Internet destroyed the middle class

Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class – Salon.com:

“Here’s a current example of the challenge we face,” he writes in the book’s prelude: “At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?”

Efficiency and automation made America a knowledge-based economy. Nerds replaced low-skilled labor.

Others often make the point that new industries have emerged to replace the previous labor market, but there’s no acknowledgement of how those markets don’t employ as many people as the older industries did.

Why not? Because there’s no need to. Because computers.

And this is where things start getting weird. If you are in favor of automation and efficiency (and who isn’t) you are indirectly supporting the hollowing out of the low-skilled job market – and you begin to sound like a heartless Scrooge when the only thing you can think to improve the quality of life for low-skilled laborers is that they need to catch up, and fast.

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