Michigan: If you were essential in 2020, you might be in ‘the useless class’ in 2023

Michigan’s partnership with the World Economic Forum will accelerate Detroit’s decline, using taxpayer money

When America needed ventilators in the early pandemic, Detroit and the Michigan auto industry were essential.

Then-President Donald Trump said Detroit’s quick work in producing ventilators would save American lives.

It was a measure of respect not afforded Detroit since World War II, when the Michigan auto industry was the arsenal of democracy, building the munitions America needed to win the war. In times of crisis, America is always happy to have a manufacturing expert in-house.

The People’s Republic of China is manufacturer to the world, but also America’s biggest rival on the global stage. It’s not the country we would trust to build life-saving technologies. America wanted Detroit on that factory floor. It needed Detroit on that factory floor.

But Michigan’s manufacturing heritage is under attack. And the attacks are funded with taxpayer money.

If you built the ventilators or were a truck driver in 2020, you were considered “essential” by public officials. You left home so others could stay home. Perhaps your commute was even lined with well-wishers and horn-honkers honoring your efforts.

That was a long time ago. Two years later, efforts are afoot to make such people useless, in 2023 and beyond. And they’re funded with taxpayer money. Your money.

The state of Michigan has partnered with the World Economic Forum, remember, to create the U.S. Centre for Advanced Manufacturing. (No, that’s not a typo; the forum chose not to spell “center” the American way.)

With a $3 million state expenditure, and another $3 million pledged by Oakland County, the WEF’s partnership with Automation Alley is funded with $6 million in taxpayer money, and that’s just the beginning.

On Tuesday, the future will arrive when the manufacturing center launches officially in Troy. The launch will include the debut of a 3D-printed vehicle, the Czinger 21C. As the website for the vehicle explains:

The first production car born from Czinger’s proprietary production system, the 21C is created utilizing Human-AI design, 3D printing technology, automated assembly and patented in-house developed materials.

If you thought electric vehicles meant fewer jobs for the Michigan auto industry, 3D printers will be much worse.

Just how much did Michigan officials know about the forum before partnering up?

At the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, just two months before the COVID-19 pandemic, futurist Yuval Noah Hariri gave a speech called “How to Survive the 21st century.” He identified three threats: Nuclear war, environmental destruction, and technological disruption.

“Technology might also disrupt human society and the very meaning of human life in numerous ways,” Hariri said, “ranging from the creation of a global useless class to the rise of data colonialism and of digital dictatorships.”

This will be globalism’s top export in the 21st century. Uselessness.

Hariri added: “Those who fail in the struggle against irrelevance would constitute a new ‘useless class’ – people who are useless not from the viewpoint of their friends and family, but useless from the viewpoint of the economic and political system. And this useless class will be separated by an ever-growing gap from the ever more powerful elite.”

Hariri’s speech was presented as a warning, or a prediction. In reality, technological disruption is why the attendees came to Davos. To accelerate it.

Whoever Michigan sends to Davos in January will sit through similar speeches, and come away with a similar mission. They will be conditioned to view themselves not as a member of “the useless class,” whose lives will be uprooted, but as the elite, who will be fine either way.

In April 2019, Automation Alley, Accenture Strategy and the World Economic Forum collaborated on a white paper called “A New Era of Manufacturing in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: $7 Billion of Possibilities Uncovered in Michigan.”

A big chunk of that $7 billion, $2.1 billion, will come from deploying “cobots,” or collaborative robots, the paper says.

“Cobots can handle the ‘dirty, dull and dangerous’ work, reducing accidents in the workplace and freeing up workers to focus on innovation,” the white paper reads.

Innovation? Since when is that the job of the factory worker? No, excellence within their job duties was always the standard. “Dull, dirty and dangerous” jobs are a good chunk of the Michigan economy.

In its three mentions of cobots, the white paper twice cites innovation as a benefit. Listen closely and you’ll hear a giant sucking sound, as Michigan trades jobs that do exist for innovations that are unlikely to occur.

The paper continues: “Cobots can diminish the labour cost advantage of many emerging economies, which may help bring some manufacturing jobs back to the U.S.”

Translation: Automakers will need just-enough workers, just skilled enough to babysit robots. And no more.

It could be worse, Hariri warned in 2020.

“Whereas in the past humans had to struggle against exploitation, in the 21st century the really big struggle will be against irrelevance,” Hariri said. “And it is much worse to be irrelevant than exploited.”

Detroit was always special among cities, the one place that valued brawn as much as brain — even more so, at some points in history.

When America faced Hitler, Detroit was essential. When America needed ventilators, Detroit was essential.

Now, using taxpayer money, Michigan has partnered with people who view blue-collar workers as irrelevant and useless.


James David Dickson is managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential. Email him at

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.