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Is the Internet Destroying the Middle Class?

June 19, 2013, 11:02 AM

Technology companies can create enormous value, but what about jobs? 

Consider this analysis from Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management, who spoke at a conference at Wharton in March 2013. According to a summary on Knowledge@Wharton, Brynjolfsson pointed out that four companies - Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google - had a market cap i"n the neighborhood of $1 trillion," but the four companies combined only employed 190,000 people, which is "fewer than the number of jobs the U.S. economy needs to create every six weeks just to keep pace with population growth."

If that analysis isn't troubling enough, the virtual reality pioneer, computer scientist, artist and author Jaron Lanier has a whole book full of examples of how the Web is destroying jobs, wealth and even our democracy. In Who Owns the Future?, Lanier compares two companies, Kodak and Instagram:

At the height of its power, the photography company Kodak employed more than 140,000 people and was worth $28 billion. They even invented the first digital camera. But today Kodak is bankrupt, and the new face of digital photography has become Instagram. When Instagram was sold to Facebook for a billion dollars in 2012, it employed only 13 people. Where did all those jobs disappear? And what happened to the wealth that all those middle-class jobs created?

It doesn't have to be this way, and Lanier offers solutions, which he will be presenting at Techweek Chicago on Saturday, June 29. Find out more here

Image courtesy fo Shutterstock


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