The Perse School

Harvard scholar returns to The Perse with thought-provoking political debate

15 Jan 2018

Whether robots could make certain jobs redundant and the resulting political ramifications on the future of work were among the topics in a thought-provoking discussion with Perse students, led by Josh Simons (OP, 2011).

Now a Kennedy scholar at Harvard, studying for a PhD within the US university’s government department, Josh provided a flavour of his research into how political institutions and ideas have shaped the effects of technological change during his 42 talk.

Alongside his studies at Harvard, he is also exploring the values and principles of our relationship with work, for the Future of Work Commission in this country.

Josh, who graduated from Cambridge University top of his year with a starred double first degree in politics and history after leaving The Perse in 2011, told students there were three types of technology that would have a huge effect on the future of work – artificial intelligence, robots and data, providing self-driving cars as an example of something that combines all those elements.

However, he explained that while some jobs would become obsolete, other new roles based around these technologies would be created.

Josh, who has worked as a policy advisor to the Labour Party, put forward three potential political futures for students to debate based around this concept and which one they would most and least like to see.

They included a world where adults received a universal basic income whether they worked or not, one where everyone has a share in the wealth created by the new technologies, and another where people can vote on what jobs should be handed over to robots and those that should continue to be carried out by humans.

Afterwards, Josh said he was delighted to be back at The Perse and was pleased to see students being so engaged in political ideas.

He said: “I was a little nervous about leading such an open talk rather than lecturing for 20 minutes, but many students gave their thoughts, which were engaging, interesting, well-informed and energetic about the topic.

“I’m not sure if pupils would have been quite so engaged in politics when I was here. One thing about the present moment is people are more engaged politically than they were a few years ago.

“That especially includes young people, which I think is a great thing, and I’m sure The Perse does everything to promote that.”

Listen to Josh explain why his interest in politics was developed at The Perse and his experiences and advice on studying in the USA.

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