Maybe the Luddite Fallacy isn’t a fallacy any more

The Economist explores how automation and technology is replacing jobs. Unlike previous eras when such disruptions did indeed create many new jobs, this time the robots and bots may be self-perpetuating. And the jobs they are replacing are ones previously thought immune from such technological shifts.

First thing we do, we replace all the lawyers.

Lawyers are in a similar boat now that smart algorithms can search case law, evaluate the issues at hand and summarise the results. Machines have already shown they can perform legal discovery for a fraction of the cost of human professionals—and do so with far greater thoroughness than lawyers and paralegals usually manage.

The original Luddites just wanted a level playing field. Sound familiar?

But the Luddites themselves “were totally fine with machines,” says Kevin Binfield, editor of the 2004 collection Writings of the Luddites. They confined their attacks to manufacturers who used machines in what they called “a fraudulent and deceitful manner” to get around standard labor practices. “They just wanted machines that made high-quality goods,” says Binfield, “and they wanted these machines to be run by workers who had gone through an apprenticeship and got paid decent wages. Those were their only concerns.”

Luddites smashing machinery