President Barack Obama on how AI will affect future jobs

President Barack Obama had a sit-down with WIRED’s editor in chief, Scott Dadich and MIT Media Lab director, Joi Ito to discuss how artificial intelligence will impact the job-market, and the necessary measures to be taken to prevent people losing their jobs.

In the 9-minute-long interview, Obama explains why he believes the development of AI is very positive, but that it is essential that the societal compact has to accommodate these new technologies, along with our economic models.

”We want to develop systems that are open enough and transparent enough, so that human judgement and human imagination and creativity are still intruding and active, but a lot of the routine-stuff is replaced” Obama said.

He uses the example of when humans first started using calculators as an extension of our intelligence, but it was simple enough to it would not feel threatening. According to Obama, this has to do with us understanding exactly what’s going on, whereas with a lot of the new systems developed in technology, the public are losing track of what it is really doing.

Obama raises the urgency of thinking about the economical implications of AI and the need for a societal conversation about how to manage the development of artificial intelligence.

”High-skilled folks do very well in these systems. They can leverage their talents, they can interface with machines to extend their reach, their sales, their products and their services. Low-wage, low-skilled individuals become more and more redundant, and their jobs may not be replaced but wages are suppressed”, Obama explains. This is where the importance of dialogue comes in.

”If we are to successfully manage this transition, we have to have a societal conversation about how to manage that. How do we train it and ensure that the economy is inclusive? We are producing more than ever, but more and more are going to a small group at the top. How do we ensure that we all have a living income?”

Obama explains how the process of the social compact accomodating these new technologies, as well as our economic models, will most likely happen within 20 years time.

”It is a long process, but if we make good decisions now, we can build the runways so that by the time AI is fully incorporated into our economic life, people will welcome it as opposed to reject it”, Obama said.

Joi Ito and Obama both emphasise that it is not necessarily only the low-skills service jobs that will be replaced by AI, but that the high-skills jobs are at ”risk” too.

As long as they are repeatable and a machine can do them, they can potentially be replaced by machines, Obama explains.

Obama said: ”What is indisputable is that as AI gets further incorporated and the society potentially gets wealthier, the link between production and distribution, how much you work and how much you make, gets further and further attenuated. Because the computers are doing a lot of the work ,and as a consequence, we then have to make some tougher decisions”.

He addresses the issue of the US already underpaying professions such as teachers, despite their job being really difficult to conduct well as a machine.

”For us to re-examine what we value, what we collectively are willing to pay for, whether it’s teachers, nurses, caregivers, mums, dads who stay at home, artists, all the things that are incredibly valuable to us, but right now don’t rank high on the totem pole, that’s a conversation that we need to have, and Joi identified the ways in which this could be solved, but it’s going to require a new way of thinking and that’s not going to happen right away”.

The interview was found at:

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