CHICAGO ALDERMAN AMEYA PAWAR is worried about the future.
He is concerned that a coming wave of automation could put millions of people out of work and result in more extreme politics.
Pointing to investments in autonomous vehicles by companies like Tesla, Amazon, and Uber, Pawar observed that long-haul trucking jobs, historically a source of middle-class employment, may become obsolete. More people out of work means more political polarization, says Pawar.”We have to start talking about race and class and geography, but also start talking about the future of work as it relates to automation. All of this stuff is intertwined.”
Before leaving the race after being outspent by two billionaire candidates, Pawar campaigned for the Illinois Democratic Party’s nomination for governor. One of the themes of his candidacy was that politicians were scapegoating various racial or ethnic groups for their constituents’ material problems.
“You know, the British pit Hindus and Muslims against one another,” Pawar told The Intercept at the time, drawing on his Indian-American heritage. “Pit people against one another based on class and geography, caste … this is no different. Chicago versus downstate. Downstate versus Chicago. Black, white, brown against one another. All poor people fighting over scraps.”
Pawar now believes that a wave of mass automation will only compound this problem.
“From a race and class perspective, just know that 66 percent of long-haul truck drivers are middle-aged white men,” he observed. “So if you put them out of work without any investment in new jobs or in a social support system so that they transition from their job to another job, these race and class and geographical divides are going to grow.”
Pawar thinks that one way to battle racial resentment is to address the economic precarity that politicians have used to stoke it. He has decided to endorse the universal basic income — an idea that has been picking up steam across the world.