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Editorial board Foreword

Volume I Issue II

Introducing the second issue of JPPE

Technological disruption has been a fact of the post-industrial world, producing the growth in productivity and efficiency that led to nearly unfathomable increases in opulence, standards of living, and wealth. It may, as a consequence, seem perplexing why so many of today’s leaders seem concerned about something so seemingly vastly beneficial as technological innovation. And yet, few economic shifts produce more anxiety than those involving the introduction of labor saving technology into the economy.


This was true in the 19th century Britain, when the Luddites stood in such abject fear of the permanent redundancy of their labor that they took to murdering machine innovators and destroying designs. It was also true in the early 20th century, as agricultural innovations and new industrial designs dramatically reshaped the US economy. And it’s true again today, as artificial intelligence and digital technology make a wide array of occupations largely or entirely automatable. This has potentially profound implications for the world. As globalization, outsourcing, and the presence of winner- take all markets exacerbate income inequality in many countries, labor automation stands to make possibly significant numbers of jobs redundant, increasing returns to capital, and hastening the growth in inequality as productivity increases faster than wages.


It’s the presence of these alarming trends that has driven us to dedicate the second issue of the Journal of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics to the topic of technology and, specifically, technological disruption. We have done this by facilitating submissions from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Brookings Institution President John Allen, both of whom have emerged as contemporary leaders on the front line to develop a politics that confronts some of the more perverse effects of technological innovation.


As questions surrounding the effects of labor automation continue to garner more attention, the most popular solutions tend to take on at least one of two forms: education or social security. Ms. Sturgeon and Mr. Allen’s suggestions are therefore an apt encapsulation of the nature of the debate about how best to address technological displacement; the former discusses social security and the latter, education.    


Mr. Allen argues for a revaluation of modern education and training programs for workers and youths. He proposes that America’s continued dominance requires a strong investment in education programs that emphasize, for example, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and super-computing. Meanwhile Ms. Sturgeon provides a strong case for considering a universal basic income as a possible approach to curtail the effects of labor automation on inequality. She highlights Scotland’s experiments with such a proposal and underscores the need for bold leadership to develop a new approach to social security befitting of a modern and more technological advanced era.  


Although this semester’s issue of JPPE is centered on the question of technological disruption, it also features essays from undergraduates on a wide range of topics. One piece discusses the relationship between private companies and US cybersecurity policy. Another considers whether secession is a viable solution to the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict. And, in Moral Manipulation, a student considers the ethics of corporate advertising campaigns through a Kantian paradigm.


The Brown University Journal of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics is deeply proud of both the feature articles and student essays published in this issue. As students— from Providence to Beijing— begin to grapple with a rapidly changing economy and socio-political climate, the number of novel challenges the rising generation faces is great. And in the Journal you are now reading, students and world leaders around the world provide a great number of equally novel solutions.

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