In essence, Ford is hypothesizing that Marx may just turn out to have been a little ahead of his time when he talked about capitalism’s “contradictions.” Eventually capital will concentrate in fewer and fewer hands (in tomorrow’s case, the robot owners’), and surging unemployment will combine with sagging wages to undermine the mass markets capitalism requires in order to function…

In a phone interview Tuesday, Ford emphasized that the pace of technological change is a much bigger force for disruption than globalization – yet it’s the latter that generates the ink and the fears. It’s wrong to think that only less-skilled workers are at risk, Ford adds; it’s much easier to automate a radiologist’s job than a housekeeper’s. For this reason, the idea that the policy answer is “education and training” strikes him as self-evidently flawed. Yet less-skilled workers will have no haven either, as Foxconn’s recent order of 1 million robots for its low-wage Chinese factories proves.

In the end, Ford says, if something like the scenario he sketches comes to pass, capitalism’s salvation will require that mass consumption not depend on income from work. What does that mean exactly? It means government redistribution on a scale that today seems as unthinkable as does the economy-wide automation of jobs he foresees.