alexandria ocasia cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
REUTERS/Sergio Flores

SXSW is usually a place where technology, movies, and music comes together. But at this year’s festival, politicians are also making an appearance. Not a day after sharing her proposal to break up companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, US Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) expanded on her plans. But she wasn’t the only Democrat to attend the festival. On Saturday, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) was featured in a session where she didn’t talk about tech giants but focused on the Green New Deal and automation. Why is this relevant? We are in a world where technology is starting to take over. In fact, we are seeing technology (in some cases) replacing humans. And this is becoming a hotly debated political topic.

So when asked her thoughts on machines replacing humans in the workplace, Ocasio-Cortez said that people should be excited about automation jobs, but there are systematic barriers that are standing in their way. Ocasio-Cortez states:

“We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should not feel nervous about the toll booth collector not having to collect tolls anymore. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where, if you don’t have a job, you are left to die.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Ocasio-Cortez made a really interesting point. Bill Gates proposed a solution of taxing robots at a rate of 90%. When you first read that you’re probably thinking – well, that seems odd. How can you tax a robot? Well, what Gates is actually saying is that it would be the corporations getting taxed. That sounds a bit like a win-win, in my opinion. But whether it would fly in today’s political climate is another matter. Ocasio-Cortez added that the government needs to get to a point where it restructures its systems to distribute wealth created by automation, which could come with many benefits. Ocasio-Cortez believes:

“If we approach solutions to our system and start entertaining ideas like that, then we should be excited about automation. What it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing and investigating in the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

More and more companies are investing in artificial intelligence, and other automated systems, which means politicians have to think carefully about how they plan to tackle what could be a major issue. But Ocasio-Cortez sees automation as an opportunity, and not a problem. In fact, it’s a proponent of the Green New Deal. But how? Technology might not exist presently which would see the Green New Deal flourish, but historically, that has worked out. Take John F. Kennedy for example. He proposed to put a person on the moon within 10 years. At the time the technology needed for space travel didn’t exist. And then it did. Which means, the government needs to support new technology because it will better the future in terms of the climate. We might not be there right now, but there’s still time to work on reversing the environmental damage that our parents and their parents, unknowingly, contributed to.