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What John Oliver Gets Wrong About Robots and Jobs

What John Oliver Gets Wrong About Robots and Jobs

Adam Simpson

In the most recent episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the eponymous host ventured into the complex, dizzying, and occasionally dystopian realm of how technological change will affect jobs and work. While it’s welcome that a well-nuanced discussion of automation is reaching Oliver’s mainstream millions, the limited narratives are obsolete and in need of a major reboot.

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Wow! An article solely devoted to finding fault with John Oliver’s humorous take on the future of robots in the workplace.

This neoliberal status quo protector gets a lot of things wrong. Fuck this asshole.


Right on, DT. Every time I tune in to do a reality check on this jerk, the reality is that he’s still a neoliberal apologist. I wish he’d use his talent for real change instead of shilling for his corporate masters.


Artificial intelligence, a necessary component of automation, has already come a lot further than most people suspect.
There is a secret arms race happening right now between silicon valley and its Chinese counterparts that is every bit as dangerous and insane as the nuclear arms race was.
It is probably even more dangerous because it is primarily being fought by private actors answerable only to their shareholders, and thanks to the protections afforded a corporation’s proprietary information, it is mostly happening in secret.
Jobs, or the lack there of, are actually a low priority on the list of dangers when talking about automation.

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Yep, very incomplete.

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Dear John Oliver, you need to do another show, Do this one.
We all know that CEOs are overpaid and that corporations are not really people and yet they get all the benefits of being people that the actual people do not get.

So obviously, corporate America is staring at the wrong end of the question, if A-! does all, what will the People do? That’s starting at the wrong end. I would like YOU, John Oliver, to interview the computer WATSON. Now here’s where it gets good! WATSON will have all kinds of philosophical input in as to create a benevolent CEO. This is wonderful, because WATSON and his fellow clones will not be interested in sex, or money, or power, because they will be programed for the COMMON GOOD, an often forgotten concept in America business and in the world.

Once all the CEOs are benevolent WATSON clones, we won’t need any expensive boards for any directors to sit on, nor will the WATSON clones need any great pay, or big houses or much of anything—except love of freedom, and a better world. Of course all these CEO WATSONS would have to go into medical clone and malware checks as, human beings will try to make a tyrant out of him too—just like so many current CEOS who are pretty awful and selfish people. Except you know, WATSON CEOS will never need a paycheck, or idolizing or use underhanded behavior . SO if we started at the TOP and worked down, then work places and jobs would be so much more wonderful for the human workers and the planet. Please work on this show, John Oliver : )

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Yeah. Apparently comedy programs are still not particularly good sources for news.

It may have appeared that they were at some point, but people often compared them to network news or to commercial newspapers.

Dear Adam Simpson,

If you call for open discussion about the false premise of constant growth, you might want to address its ugly twin: the legacy of “externalized costs”. They’re not just for production any more.

The mortally abusive-legacy-market-share practice of pretending and hiding actual costs must be teased out of the critique. It MUST be analyzed as a stand-alone engine of devastating proportion. It is something that conflates the temporal musings involved of time ‘itself’ (the attribution ‘itself’ - a topic for another day) - as you note in closing your piece - the present with the future. Therein lies the rub. What you are actually describing is an essential, invisibility cloak hiding in plain sight.

I quit watching John Oliver a long time ago. His first strike for me was when he stole the Rolling Jubilee idea after picking the organizations brains about it, then refusing to credit them. The last straw for me was when he lied about Jill Stein’s student debt cancellation idea.

If you want political comedy that’s not owned by U.S. TV’s corporate masters, try Lee Camp’s Redacted Tonight, or The Jimmy Dore Show.