In 2018, Let’s Stop Debating If Robots Will Take Our Jobs

Here’s my New Year’s Resolution for all of us: let’s stop arguing whether robots/AI will take our jobs.

It’s not that the answer doesn’t matter — it’s absolutely critical. But short of asking a Terminator that comes back in time, we have no way to what the answer’s going to be. It doesn’t matter how many Smart Girls & Boys crank out fancy reports filled with numbers they painstakingly crunched. There are just too many unknowns.

What convinced me that this argument is a waste of time were the extraordinary victories this year by AlphaGo and Open AI. Four years ago, if you’d told me that an AI could teach itself to play Go — which computers weren’t suppose to master for at least a decade — better than almost all human players in just 3 days, I’d have thought you’d been smoking something. I’m not saying AI is going to advance much faster than expected. But there’s simply no way to know.

Does that mean we should stop worrying? Not at all. Regardless of whether robots/AI create mass unemployment, they are going to have a deep, profound impact on the economy — and create a future that either benefits everyone or mostly those at the top. We could easily end up with plenty of jobs that pay terribly & that lay the groundwork for someone much scarier than Trump. And from Harlem to Harlan County, from East LA to the midWest Rust Belt we need to take advantage of these massive technological changes to make whole these communities that our society abandoned.

In short, in 2018 let’s stop obsessing over predicting the future and start obsessing on how to create a more just, prosperous economy for all regardless of how many jobs robots/AI destroy.

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