The Second Great Divergence
This being said, predicting the direction and pace of technological advancement is no easy matter. Many of today’s leading economists are in agreement that we are entering the fourth great technological revolution with the birth of robotics and competent AI – the earlier three being the invention of steam power, the discovery of electricity, and the widespread adoption of computing. Yet the effects this fourth revolution on society are anything but certain. For some, rapid developments in technology are a gateway to an unprecedented era of equality, with more and more people around the globe having access to all the luxuries that cutting-edge tech can afford. For others, the technological revolution is exacerbating inequality at an alarming rate. As we move further into the 21st century, the question becomes ever more urgent: how will society cope with modern technology?
Be that as it may, change is one thing to predict, another thing to effect. In late 2014, MIT’s Technology Review looked at the correlation between technology and inequality. David Grusky, speaking to the Technology Review, focused on the current inequalities surrounding education in the United States. Educational inequality is not only depriving children in poor neighbourhoods of the chance to advance, but also reducing the pool of potential high-skill workers as fewer students have the opportunities to become well-educated in fields relevant to the modern economy.Because of this, Grusky says, “we overpay for high-skill workers,” and in so doing contribute to the inequality between skilled and unskilled labour. As technology progresses, society will need to address disparities in educational opportunities, often related to postcode and parental income, so that technological expertise does not become akin to class privilege.
This said, improvements in technology have led to a huge increase in the availability of knowledge to the less well-off. Knowledge is no longer barred behind steep walls of books, library memberships, and educational institutions with high fees and low intake. In a piece profiling technology and social change, Fast Company highlighted the emergence of online learning platforms. “Numerous organizations are going beyond informing to experiment with deeper means of improving practice and/or behavior. Some are using e-learning solutions – e.g. Khan Academy’s free YouTube lessons and leading universities’ massive open online courses – to flip the classroom, let students learn at their own pace, and bring their questions to class physically or virtually.” With the increasing democratisation of education brought about by modern technology, there is a growing premise that anyone who is connected might access the tools needed to become technologically literate.
Modern technology, in principle, should drive social mobility. It increasingly provides lifestyle-enhancing resources to all those who can access and use it, irrespective of their current social standing or income. But with the disappearance of traditional class boundaries, society must be careful not to create new boundaries based on technological literacy. Increasing global access to modern technology must be a priority, while educational institutions must adopt a proactive role, giving the younger generation comprehensive educations in the desired and required skill-sets of the future, tech-centric world.
 The Economist,  Financial Times,  McKinsey,  MIT Technology Review,  MIT Technology Review,  FastCompany,  Taylor and Francis Online,  TechCrunch,  TechCrunch,  United Nations
This article is designed to throw an everyday lens on some of the issues being discussed and debated by investors across the world; it is not research, so please do not interpret it as a recommendation for your personal investments. If something has piqued your interest and you would like to find out more or discuss what investments might be suitable for you, please contact one of our Investment Managers on 020 7337 0777.