When Donald Trump met with technology leaders in December to tell them he wanted them to create jobs in the US, their heads probably tilted to the side, as if you tried to explain physics to your dog and she just watched your lips moving and wondered when, among all those unfamiliar sounds, she was going to hear the word “treat”.
Tech leaders aren’t in the business of creating jobs. They’re in business to help us do more with less. They like innovation and disruption and software eating the world but people – er, not so much.
In his own Chance-the-gardener way, the President-elect might be on to something. His victory was a middle-finger salute from those who feeling left out by technology and globalisation. The tech industry’s trend is toward leaving more people out by automating yet more lower-level jobs while creating only high-skilled jobs. It’s becoming clear that if tech doesn’t change that trajectory, the consequences might look something like the Visigoths attacking Rome in 410.
Apple chief executive Tim Cook, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Alphabet’s Larry Page and a bunch of their peers slinked into Trump Tower on 14 December for a meeting with the President-elect, who doesn’t use a computer, probably has never used Uber and no doubt thinks team messaging app Slack is what he finds at the tips of his gloves. If you can imagine how top neurosurgeons would react to a lecture on the brain by a TV chef – well, that’s how the tech leaders must have felt in this session.