In the second decade of the 21st Century, a major shift took place in the world of ground transportation. Taxicab drivers – long protected by local barriers to market entry – found themselves overtaken in the marketplace by new and disruptive rideshare services. Uber and Lyft drivers were able to provide a cheaper and simpler and more convenient means of getting around. This has created a significant benefit to consumers, though there have been winners and losers among drivers. Yet, even for the winners, this profession is now at serious risk of redundancy, thanks to the prospect of the driverless car. While still in development, autonomous vehicles could well mean the end of a livelihood – not only for rideshare drivers, but also for truckers and other vehicle operators – in the years to come. However, this is not a new phenomenon. In this talk, industrial history podcaster Dave Broker explains how, between the 17th and 19th centuries, an almost identical process played out in the British textile trade. It was the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and its explosive consequences should be remembered and studied as we face the economic changes on the horizon.
Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation