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US Treasury Secretary says we don’t have to worry about automation of jobs for another 50-100 years

Posted: 27 March 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

United States Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said that artificial intelligence and automation of jobs is not on his radar.

Speaking with Axio’s Mike Allen on Friday, Mnuchin discussed a wide range of issues including the strength of the dollar, tax reform, Donald Trump’s “perfect genes” and the automation of American jobs.

Allen asked Mnuchin what his thoughts were on AI and how it will affect the workforce. The Trump appointee, who was also an executive producer on Oscar-winning film Suicide Squad, doesn’t see it as an issue that we’ll have to worry about for a while.

“I think that is so far in the future, in terms of artificial intelligence taking over American jobs, I think we’re, like, so far away from that, that’s not even on my radar screen.” Mnuchin said.

When asked just how far away that was Mnuchin, after baulking at Allen’s suggestion of “seven more years” said he thinks that it’s “50 to 100 more years.”

The Treasury Secretary’s claims come the same week as a report from consulting firm PwC which found that thirty-eight per cent of US jobs are at high risk of being replaced by robots within 15 years as the pace of automation increases.

Automation has already had a notable effect on US manufacturing jobs.  According to a study by the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, 5.6 million manufacturing jobs were lost in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010. An estimated 85 per cent of those lost jobs were “actually attributable to technological change — largely automation.”

Mnuchin’s views seem to be largely at odds with those of the previous administration. The previous Democratic government warned Trump not o neglect the importance of advancements in AI. Former President Barack Obama also used his farewell address to warn of the effects of automation and the economic disruption facing the US.

“There are no quick fixes to this long-term trend. I agree that our trade should be fair and not just free. But the next wave of economic dislocation won’t come from overseas.” Said Obama. “It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete.”

The twitter reaction from the tech community seemed universal in response to his comments.

Investor and philanthropist Mark Cuban had a single word response for Mnuchin.

Former Clinton Administration official Larry Irving who now works in the tech sector called his comments “frightening”.

And former US Chief Data Scientist, DJ Patil directed the current Treasury Secretary to the Whitehouse AI Report published under the Obama administration.

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