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Sam Jayne / Axios

Over the last decade or so, we've seen ordinarily apolitical topics polarize us into angry opposing mobs, among them vaccines, atmospheric gases, electric cars and Russia. When there has been a super-strong view one way or another, it's been sucked into the hothouse and associated with an ideology. Charges of fake news and a general deterioration of debate have followed.

Checking my emails over the last couple of weeks, I've noticed politics seeping into the subject of the future of work. One technically expert reader, for instance, explained why he sides with the singularity, the theory predicting super-human intelligence, and the Universal Basic Income, the call for a basic stipend for all Americans as an antidote to robotization. Then he wrote: "Trump will do eight years. The Democratic Party is totally obsolete. Something will replace it." A non-sequitur? An identification of issue with party?

Or perhaps we are headed for political cleavage over robots and artificial intelligence.

  • It sounds foolish. But so does fighting over electric cars. Dan Kahan, a professor at Yale University, has studied the question as part of his Cultural Cognition Project. He told me that he found slightly higher concern over the risks of AI the more conservative you are (here's his chart). Generally speaking, however, he thinks AI is a "wild card" and not something to worry about at the moment.
  • But Georgetown's Hans Noel notes: "It's quite likely that any issue could become polarized. ... I think new issues usually get drawn into partisan or ideological debates, or else they remain unexciting to everyone."

And that's the point: Seemingly innocuous if momentous topics suddenly take on wholly unrelated emotional baggage, and before you know it, everyone has lost their brains. Both professors think it's hard to predict — should politics fly in — who would take what side in polarized AI. "Any new policy might have winners and losers on both sides of the political divide," Noel told me.

Bottom line: We can hope we are overlooked by this dimension of our age. But that doesn't mean we will be.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
54 mins ago - Economy & Business

The European Central Bank and the market's moment of truth

ECB president Christine Lagarde; Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The biggest event for markets this week will be Thursday's meeting of the European Central Bank's governing council and the press conference following it from ECB president Christine Lagarde.

Why it matters: With interest rates jumping around the globe, investors are looking to central bank heads to see if they will follow the lead of Fed chair Jerome Powell, who says rising rates are nothing to worry about, or Bank of Japan governor Haruhiko Kuroda, who has drawn a line in the sand on rates.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Manchin's next power play

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), America's ultimate swing voter, told me on "Axios on HBO" that he'll insist Republicans have more of a voice on President Biden's next big package than they did on the COVID stimulus.

The big picture: Manchin said he'll push for tax hikes to pay for Biden's upcoming infrastructure and climate proposal, and will use his Energy Committee chairmanship to force the GOP to confront climate reality.

Why picking a jury for the Derek Chauvin trial is so hard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The tough task of selecting a jury for former MPD officer Derek Chauvin's trial for the killing of George Floyd is set to begin Monday.

The state of play: "This case may be the most highly publicized criminal trial in a long time. ... That means that it's harder to find people who really have an open mind," Richard Frase, University of Minnesota Law School professor of criminal law, told Axios.