Martin Ford

Martin Ford

Martin Ford is the author of the two books Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future (2015) and The Lights In the Tunnel: Automation, Accelerating Technology and the Economy of the Future (2009) — both dealing with the effects of automation and mass-unemployment. He is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm, and obtained a computer engineering degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and a graduate business degree from UCLA's Anderson School of Management.Ford was the first 21st century author[1] to publish a book (The Lights in the Tunnel in 2009) making a strong argument that advances in robotics and artificial intelligence would eventually make a large fraction of the human workforce obsolete.[2] In subsequent years, other books have made similar arguments, and Ford's thesis has been supported by a number of formal academic studies, most notably by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne of Oxford University, who found in 2013 that the jobs held by roughly 47 percent of the U.S. workforce could be susceptible to automation within the next two decades.[3]In his most recent book Rise of the Robots, he argues that the growth of automation now threatens many highly-educated people, like lawyers, radiologists, and software designers.[4] To deal with the rise of unemployment, he is in favor of a basic income guarantee.[5]Both of Ford's books focus on the fact that widespread automation could potentially undermine economic growth or even lead to a deflationary spiral because jobs are the primary mechanism for distributing purchasing power to consumers.[6] He has warned that as income becomes ever more concentrated into the hands of a tiny elite, the bulk of consumers will eventually lack the income and confidence to continue supplying demand to the mass market industries that form the backbone of the modern economy.[7]Ford strongly supports both capitalism and continued technological progress but believes it will be necessary to adapt our economic system to the new reality created by advances in artificial intelligence, and that some form of basic income guarantee is the best way to do this.[8] In Rise of the Robots he cites the Peltzman effect (or risk compensation) as evidence that the safety net created by a guaranteed income might well result in increased economic risk taking and a more dynamic and entrepreneurial economy.Ford has also argued for incorporating explicit incentives — especially for pursuing education — into a basic income scheme, suggesting for example that those who graduate from high school (or complete an equivalency exam) ought to receive a somewhat higher guaranteed income than those who drop out. Without this, many marginal or "at risk" students would be presented with a perverse incentive to simply drop out and collect the basic income.
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