The Obama administration, in December of 2016, did a report on automation and it said that as many as 40% or so of jobs will be eliminated because of AI and automation. It addressed the issue of ownership once, only to point out that because of the ownership structure of the economy (i.e., traditional private ownership), because of the fact that (right now) capital is highly mobile, and because of power differentials, that automation was going to intensify class conflict. Entirely true. Worker and public ownership is place-based. Traditional private enterprise can be, but isn’t necessarily so. Worker-owned and public enterprises are necessarily place based. Those that own the enterprise will be relatively close to that enterprise, and will be in the same country (although Mondragon has massively grown and now employs people in other countries. As a result, it is struggling as to how to figure out how to hold onto actual worker ownership if an increasing share of its workforce don’t own the enterprise). Workers that own a company will necessarily live close to the company, the money made will largely stay local and won’t leave like it does from absentee ownership, and worker cooperatives are internally democratic, equitable, and am important means of skill and educational attainment. Many of those things hold for public ownership too, although the flow of money would go to the government and not workers. So, ownership of enterprises is, and should be, a main point of debate in the coming decades. The environmental crisis will bring down capitalism as we know it. So, the question is whether or not what takes its place will be democratic and equitable, or undemocratic, inequitable and hierarchical.
AI-driven technological change could lead to even larger disparities in income between capital owners and labor. For example, Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that current trends in the labor market, such as declining wages in the face of rising productivity, are indicative of a more drastic change in the distribution of economic benefits to come. Rather than everyone receiving at least some of the benefit, the vast majority of that value will go to a very small portion of the population: “superstar-biased technological change.” Superstar-biased technological change is somewhat similar to skill-biased technological change, but the benefits of technology accrue to an even smaller portion of society than just the highly-skilled workers. The winner-take-most and winner-take-all nature of the information technology market means that the fortunate few are likely to emerge as victors of the market. This would exacerbate the current trend in the rising fraction of total income going to the top 0.01 percent