Around the world, technology is disrupting the workforce, with automation poised to displace humans in the fields of medicine, agriculture, and beyond. Will the rise of robots fuel a new wave of "us versus them" populism capable of undermining democracy?
For some, the answer is yes. They argue that as people lose jobs to robots, the gap between the rich and poor widens, distrust in government and democratic institutions grows, and populist ideas become more attractive to those who feel left behind.
The importance of work trumps the importance of democracy, leaving a clear path for authoritarians to rise under nationalist messages that pit groups of people against one another.
But others paint a different picture: They argue that humans have adapted to, and benefited from, new innovations for centuries. From the advent of water and steam power to computers, work has changed, but never disappeared.
And as automation drives higher productivity growth, humans can reach their full potential and pursue societal innovation, allowing more citizens to feel fulfilled and strengthening democracy on the whole.
The Intelligence Squared debate motion: "Automation Will Crash Democracy"
FOR THE MOTION:
Ian Bremmer, founder and president, Eurasia Group.
"Today, automation-driven and AI-driven algorithms are dividing liberal democracies. They're ripping apart the fabric of society. We live in something close to an information dystopia."
Yascha Mounk, lecturer, Harvard University & senior fellow, New America.
"What will automation do? It'll systematically increase the cost of tolerating democracy for elites and decrease the costs of quashing democracy. The biggest cost to elites is sharing wealth through progressive taxation, through distribution. The more inequality, the more demand there is for redistribution."
AGAINST THE MOTION:
Andrew Keen, Internet entrepreneur & author, "How To Fix The Future."
"The nature of the human condition is to break things and then fix them. We've proved it in the industrial age and we will prove it in the age of automation."
Alina Polyakova, David M. Rubenstein fellow, Brookings Institution
"Democracies are built on openness, plurality, resilience. We have a huge comparative advantage here. Only in democracies can citizens mobilize, activate, and push their political leaders to get through the kinds of social policies that will make this difficult and challenging adjustment period much smoother and easier."