Treasury Secretary Isn't Worried About Job-Stealing Robots

treasury-secretary-isn-and-39;t-worried-about-jobstealing-robots photo 1

The threat of artificial intelligence taking human jobs isn't something that US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin worries about.

In an interview with Axios on Friday broadcast on CSPAN, Mnuchin acknowledged that robots could supplant humans in some roles, but he said that moment would be 50 or 100 years in the future, and that when it arrives it will be a good thing for the American worker.

"I'm not worried at all" about robots displacing humans in the near future, Mnuchin said. "In fact, I'm optimistic," he added.

Mnuchin's view on artificial intelligence might seem to go against reality: plenty of robots have already invaded factories and other workplaces. A humanoid robot named Pepper is at work in pizza restaurants and hospitals, and robot baristas started serving paying customers in a California coffee shop earlier this year.

Meanwhile, governments are already wrestling with how to treat the robot invasion. The European Union went so far as to label robots "electronic persons" last year when it considered a tax on companies who replace human jobs with machines.

Still, Mnuchin's timeframe for the zenith of the robot revolution in the workplace also reflects recent polls of Americans' opinion on the matter. A Pew Research Study found last year that 65 percent of Americans think that within 50 years, robots will "definitely" or "probably" do much of the work currently performed by people.


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Despite that view, the study also found that, like Mnuchin, Americans weren't worried: 80 percent of respondents said that their own jobs wouldn't be in danger of a robot takeover.

If anything, Mnuchin said, robots might take some jobs, but they would end up making the overall economy stronger if the people who they displace receive the training required to move into higher-skilled positions.

"If you can have a robot who folds towels so that our workers can be doing higher productive things at higher wages, that's a great thing," he said. "That creates productivity, that creates opportunity, that creates profits."

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