Snuck in as a last-minute report before the holidays, the White House report “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” seems to suggest that automation might replace almost one half of all American jobs in the next decade or so.
This would have been really great info to know before the election season, wouldn’t it?
Surely, this all wasn’t some sort of surprise. I mean, the tech and science news we’ve been hearing about for the last several years seemed to be pointing in this very direction. But who reads the tech and science news sections? How many voters? Apparently not many on any of these counts—because if they were informed, if they were reading about these developments, they would have been alarmed far more than five minutes ago and would have demanded the presidential candidates address the automation issue.
Ditto for the mainstream media. When this report dropped late last year, it did manage to reach “above the fold” on the regular news sites, and make its 15-minute claim to fame as an Important Story, riding off the fumes of the Amazon Go stuff. My favorite from this period was the New York Post cover with a picture of a menacing Amazon-branded Robbie the Robot, ready to steal our jerbs.
If I sound angry, it’s because the time to really have gotten the American people concerned about all this was years ago. If that had happened, perhaps automation would have been a crucial issue in the election. But it wasn’t. And why wasn’t it? Frankly, I think the administration didn’t want to piss off the companies producing this very same automation they are warning us about now.
Case in point: automated, self-driving cars. Just months before the “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” report, the White House was almost acting like this industry’s PR arm. Now we get a report that pretty much projects that self-driving vehicles threaten the lion’s share of America’s truckers, cab drivers, and etc.—threaten, like, most of these jobs (I’m not even kidding, look at the charts in the report).
And there is really nothing I see in terms of the incoming administration to suggest they will be the best suited to carry out the suggestions in the report regarding transitioning our society gently-or-otherwise to this more AI-dominated job future.
So you have on one side an administration that held back on really sounding the alarm on the AI, possibly because of connections with these automation industries…and an incoming administration who outright have connections with these automation industries. And I get it…you know, these companies are the “power players” of the future. A White House led by any person would want to be “in the loop.” I’m not a Luddite.
But the crux of the entire “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy” report is that the poor are going to get massively fucked as robots and AI replace their jobs:
…83 percent of jobs making less than $20 an hour would come under pressure from automation, as compared to 31 percent of jobs making between $20 and $40 an hour and 4 percent of jobs making above $40 an hour.
And so, anyway…it really would have been nice if this was an issue highlighted earlier to the American public by the government and the media. But when everything crashes and burns—when the masses get their pinkslips and put 2 and 2 together and realize that it wasn’t the Mexicans or Indians they really had to worry about taking their jerbs—we’ve got a pretty good figurehead/fallguy to blame it all on, don’t we? It’s going to make Nixon look like Barack Obama. You couldn’t write a better comic book script for what’s coming down the pike even if you tried.