cs492 - Spring 2017

Societal Implications with Computer Science

rpe04 -- Hard Head versus Soft Heart

One who is a socialist at sixty has no brain; one who is not a socialist at twenty has no heart.

Background.

Lower-middle class white males in the United States are in crisis, so much so that their life expectancy is decreasing. According to The Great Convergence, they are the losers in a structural change brought on by automation. They lost good jobs during the great recession and didn't regain them. Structural changes create winners and losers. UW CS students are among the winners; these men are the losers.

Team A. The Hard Head.

You are a highly qualified and well paid software engineer. You were lucky in your choice of well-educated middle-class parents, and you have worked hard to build on that luck. Now you have made it, enough wealth for a sizable house in Los Altos Hills and the admiration of your colleagues. But life in Silicon Valley is not cheap: the house has a sizable mortgage and you have two children who will need private schools to get into Stanford. So although you find Trump embarrassing you are campaigning for a tax-cutting Republican because you need those taxes you pay more than the freeloader who will othersize get them.

Team B. The Soft Heart.

You are a highly qualified and well paid software engineer. You were lucky in your choice of well-educated middle-class parents, and you have worked hard to build on that luck. Now you have made it, enough that you could retire to Canada and never work again, except that you find your job too stimulating. Despite the admiration you receive, you notice things that bother you, the evident poverty of custodians and cleaners, the low status of workers in the gig economy, the despair of people sleeping rough behind Symphony Hall in San Francisco. A stronger government that would spent some money to relieve this misery would be to your taste.

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