The World Is More Unequal Than Ever. Is That Because of Technology?
The global elite meet to talk big-picture economics, while the gap between the rich and the rest of the world continues to grow.
The world’s richest 62 people now control as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion. Let that sink in—it’s a key finding from a report (PDF) out Monday by Oxfam showing the shocking extent of inequality in the world today. The pattern is even worse when you consider the wealthiest 1 percent of people: they are richer than the other 99 percent combined.
As the world’s business and government leaders gather at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week, the meeting will focus on what advanced technology means for the global economy. This is a big open question. While many who work in high-tech jobs like to think their field is improving the world, the truth looks to be more complicated. There are signs that spreading access to the Internet enhances inequality, for example. Workers like those in Silicon Valley, who are blessed with ample technological resources, may be on the right side of a winner-take-all economy. And what of the increasing automation of jobs? Are robots robbing the working class of a steady paycheck?
Despite their pledge to mull these important, far-reaching issues, the world’s elite aren’t known for coming up with radical solutions at their annual Davos gathering. Indeed, the meeting has a reputation for being a bit of a bubble in which the moneyed pat one another on the back for doing a good job with the world’s economy while fretting about its future. If they are truly concerned about how technology affects inequality, perhaps this year they will spare a bit more time for the latter.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.Subscribe today