Automation and robotics are changing our lives quickly - everyone knows that. But digital disruption goes much further. In The Globotics Upheaval, Richard Baldwin, one of the world's leading globalisation experts, explains that exponential growth in computing, transmission and storage capacities is also creating a new form of "virtual" globalisation that could undermine the foundations of middle-class prosperity in the West.
'Virtual presence' technology and instant machine translation will enable talented foreigners sitting abroad to provide services in our offices and workspaces. It will be almost as if these remote workers were actually there and speaking the same language. Think of it as the 'gig' economy gone global.
When this new form of globalisation combines with robotics what Baldwin calls the "globotics revolution" will get up-close-and-personal for the hundreds of millions of Americans and Europeans who have hereto been protected since they have professional, white-collar and service jobs. What will it mean, for example, for Germany when a billion Africans are suddenly able to 'speak' German?
When globots disrupt communities, and throw millions of lives into disarray, we won't see a stay-calm-and-carry-on attitude. There will be a backlash - a globotics upheaval. Middle-class workers will seek to slow or reverse the trend. While a push back is inevitable, the danger is that the recoil could spin out of control if it is mishandled. The last great upheaval - industrialisation's rapid and unguided progress - created a world where job-loss meant poverty and perhaps starvation for landless workers. While the world ultimately made industrialisation work for the majority, the process involved two world wars and the Great Depression. Fascism and Communism were part of the backlash as people embraced populists who promised authority, justice, and economic security - just as they do today.
To avoid such extremes, our governments need to ensure that globots seem more like a decent development that is fair, equitable and inclusive, and less like a divisive disintegration. Baldwin also discusses measures that individuals and firms can take to prepare for the competition and new opportunities thrown up by globotics.
About the Author
Richard Baldwin is a Professor of International Economics at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, President of the Centre for Economic Policy Research in London, and Founder of the economic policy portal VoxEU.org. In addition to his research and teaching, he advises governments and international organisations around the world on globalisation and trade policy issues. In 1990-91 he served as a Senior Staff Economist for US President George Bush's Council of Economic Advisors, having completed his PhD in economics at MIT with Paul Krugman (with whom he has published a half dozen articles).
His latest book, The Great Convergence: Information Technology and the New Globalisation , was published by Harvard University Press in November 2016.
A manifesto for future-proofing our jobs and prosperity . . . It might just save your life - and your children's live . . . as good a summary as you'll read of the techno-revolution that is about to hit us * THE SUNDAY TIMES *
An important book that delivers a timely warning to the world's business elite . . . confirms [Baldwin's] place as one of the most important thinkers in this era of global disruption * FINANCIAL TIMES *
Offers valuable insights into the long-term impact that globalization and AI will have on workers . . . Baldwin presents a compelling view of the future of work and the challenges ahead while there is still time to prepare * SCIENCE magazine *
The first book I've come across that ties together the two main forces shaping our world - globalisation and technological change - in an accessible way * THE BUSINESS POST *
Engaging and informative . . . distils complex ideas into measured and understandable language that readers with no prior understanding of artificial intelligence and economics will be able to digest * THE TIMES *
A provocative argument * REUTERS *