The 2016 presidential election revealed—as nothing before it—one of the most striking but least-anticipated aspects of the global digital revolution. In a single dramatic vote, the victory of Donald Trump highlighted the emergence of a stark and widening divide between two Americas: one based in large, digitally oriented metropolitan areas; the other found in lower-tech smaller cities, towns, and rural areas. In doing so, the vote displayed—with its stark red-blue map—the underrated power of technology to reshape the geography of nations.

The divide came as a shock to many ... Also disturbing was the extent to which the nation’s revealed regional divides reflected something important about the fundamental nature of emerging digital technologies, including various forms of automation, such as artificial intelligence (AI) ... [A] significant body of academic literature now suggests the new technologies have introduced disruptive tools into the economy that, by empowering high-level work and substituting for “routine” tasks, are also massively rearranging the nation’s economic geography.

the 2016 election may go down as the first time society began to grasp the full implications of automation’s potential to transform the physical world. As big, techy cities like New York, Washington, and the Bay Area seemed to increasingly inhabit a different world from the rest of America, the people and places that were “left behind” revolted.

All of which suggests the need to add another item to the list of social and ethical dilemmas surrounding the coming AI era the fact that AI and its positive and negative impacts will not be distributed evenly, and will likely contribute to the nation’s troubling geographical divides. Solving for this challenge will add yet another priority to problem-solving about the “future of work,” worker “adjustment,” and the ethical content of algorithms.

Read the full article about emerging technology by Mark Muro at Brookings.