Treasury Secretary Blunder Sparks Discussion of Automated Future
April 04, 2017, 01:15 PM
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When Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin remarked about robots taking US jobs that “It’s not even on our radar screen … 50-100 more years,” heads exploded across the tech world. Mnuchin’s comments during an interview with Axios on March 24 [Watch] sparked more than 700,000 responses online as of today, nearly all negative. Some observed that smart machines are already displacing human workers.

Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers wrote in a March 27 Washington Post piece, Larry Summers: The robots are coming, whether Trump’s Treasury secretary admits it or not:

“Artificial intelligence is transforming everything from retailing to banking to the provision of medical care. Almost every economist who has studied the question believes that technology has had a greater impact on the wage structure and on employment than international trade and certainly a far greater impact than whatever increment to trade is the result of much debated trade agreements.”
Certainly such ignorance is disheartening among highly placed administration officials, especially one who deals with the economy. Automation is likely to be the biggest stumbling block to President Trump’s efforts to return jobs to America.

Tech-savvy billionaire Mark Cuban is one of Mnuchin’s critics and he appeared on a Fox News show on Saturday morning. Regarding the manufacturing revolution that the world faces, he explained “We’re going through a greater technological change over the next four to five years than we’ve seen over the last 30.”

Cuban also agreed with Bill Gates’ proposal that robots should be taxed, despite that idea being contrary to conservative business ideology.

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The long term outlook for human employment in the automated future is grim according to experts. Oxford researchers forecast in 2013 that nearly half of American jobs were vulnerable to machine or software replacement within 20 years. Rice University computer scientist Moshe Vardi believes that in 30 years humans will become largely obsolete, and world joblessness will reach 50 percent. The Gartner tech advising company believes that one-third of jobs will be done by machines by 2025. Forrester Research Inc. has a more optimistic view, that there will be a net job loss of 7 percent by 2025 from automation — less, but still serious. The recent PwC forecast was only slightly less severe than the Oxford numbers.

It would be nice if Washington were aware of the economic revolution occurring now and getting worse. It’s a big deal when a major chunk of the workforce becomes unemployable: the unemployment rate during the worst of the Great Depression was 25 percent, but prognosticators put the level of technological unemployment at up to half in just a few decades.

At least the government could severely prune back on immigration since additional workers are the last thing America needs.