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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > January 2017 > First they came for the factory hands…

First they came for the factory hands…

Robots will soon be moving in on the professions. It’s time to face the future

In Edward Bellamy’s 1888 novel Looking Backward a young Bostonian emerges from a state of suspended animation in the year 2000 and is startled to find the inequalities of his own era banished. A Utopian 21stcentury America has abolished money, private enterprise and poverty—every industry is owned and managed for the benefit of all.

There are glimpses of our present in Bellamy’s vision of the future. It featured a form of credit card and giant warehouses which dispatch goods direct to the home. There is even an eerily prescient streaming service, a sort of Spotify which pipes music into living rooms. But this country of musical telephones, elegant libraries and communal dining halls is run by bureaucrats on strict utilitarian lines. In this land of plenty, workers retire at 45 after 24 years of industrial service, and then look forward to four decades of rest and recreation.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s January issue: Adam Tooze and Francis Fukuyama examine the “American Century.” Tooze says that the 1917 opened the door to the future because the US seized the chance to lead, rather than for the Russian Revolution. Fukuyama says that the US has fallen from its perch, a change embodied by the election of Donald Trump. Anna Blundy puts Samuel Pepys on the couch and uses his diaries to psychoanalyse the Restoration’s chronicler. Also in this issue: Chris Bickerton examines the rise of populist parties across Europe, Peter Tatchell and Malcolm Rifkind debate whether the Uk should stop pretending Trump’s US can be its best friend, Philip Collins reviews a collection of Brexit books and DJ Taylor examines Alan Bennett’s diaries.
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