[PAST EVENT] Physics Colloquium - Science under the Populist Gun
For more than half a century science and technology have been the principal drivers of economic growth in the United States. Today, by some estimates they account for as much as 85 percent of the increase in the gross domestic product (GDP). But, while the nation as a whole has prospered economically, a majority of the population has benefitted only marginally. Wage gains have not kept pace with productivity growth, and for more than 15 years manufacturing jobs have suffered from technological displacement. Once thought to be immune to such pressures, service employment has also begun to reflect the march of technology. Automation, artificial intelligence and deep learning ? all stemming from science ? have the potential to play extraordinarily disruptive roles in the future labor force.
The 2010 election sparked the rise of the Tea Party, and the 2014 election transformed an upstart movement into much wider spread of populism. Donald Trump?s success in the 2016 general election and the unexpected strength of Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary demonstrated the rapid growth of the movement. In reaching the White House, President Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs by rewriting trade pacts, imposing tariffs on imported goods and deregulating industry. He has also promised to bring back coal mining by loosening environmental restrictions. He is almost certain to fail in delivering on his jobs promises because his proposed fixes will pale in the face of accelerating technological impacts.
While extensive polling has shown that Americans continue to have warm feelings for science, the survey results also show that the support is shallow. If workers continue to feel the adverse effects of technology on the job market, there is a significant potential for a backlash against technology. The science community needs to prepare itself for that possibility by engaging with the public more effectively and helping social scientists and lawmakers to develop policies that mitigate the adverse impacts of technology on the American workforce.
Michael S. Lubell is the Mark W. Zemansky Professor of Physics at the City College of the City University of New York (CCNY). Dr. Lubell earned his B.A. (1963) from Columbia University, and his M.S. (1965) and Ph.D. (1969) from Yale University. He was a member of the Yale faculty from 1971 to 1980, where his academic activities included directing the Combined Sciences Program. He joined the Physics Department at CCNY in 1980, where he served as Department Chair from 1999 to 2006. He also served as Director of Public Affairs of The American Physical Society (APS) from 1994 to 2016. He has held fellowships from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst. He has also held concurrent positions at Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University of Texas-Austin, the Santa Barbara (Kavli) Institute of Theoretical Physics and Universit?t Bielefeld. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and his biography appears in Who?s Who in America, Who?s Who in the World, Who?s Who in Science and Engineering and Who?s Who in American Education.
Dr. Lubell's publications comprise more than 250 articles and abstracts in scientific journals and books covering subjects in the fields of high-energy physics, nuclear physics, atomic, molecular and optical (AMO) physics, energy research and science policy. His use of polarized electrons to probe fundamental processes in atoms, nuclei and nucleons is internationally known. His science research interests now center on AMO studies of quantum chaos and simple molecular systems and energy efficiency. He has taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate physics courses at Yale and CCNY, as well as a very popular introductory astronomy course and equally popular seminars on science, science policy and politics.
He has delivered more than 150 invited lectures and has appeared often on radio and TV in North America and Europe. He is one of the experts most frequently quoted by the national and scientific media on science policy issues. He is also credited as being one of the pioneers of science advocacy in Washington and is regarded as one of its most effective practitioners. He has served on many scientific advisory committees inside and outside government. Dr. Lubell has also been a newspaper columnist and opinion contributor for more than 25 years, writing for the former Brooks Community Newspapers (now part of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group) APS News, Roll Call and The Hill. He has been active in local, state and national politics for more than four decades and has served as an advisor to members of Congress and state and national officials. He is currently working on science and technology policy book, ?The Science and Technology Maze: A Roadmap for Modern American Life,? scheduled for publication in late 2017.