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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

"Automation anxiety" is likely to trigger popular resistance to robotization, Carl Frey, a leading researcher on the future of work, tells Axios.

Quick take: Frey is the co-author of among the most influential papers in the current obsession with automation, a 2013 study that said AI could swallow 47% of U.S. jobs. His paper — along with the two-year-old populist movement across the West — is the primary reason for the nervousness in Washington and other western capitals over robots and AI.

Why it matters: We are already seeing agitation in the U.S. and Europe over the big tech companies. Now, Frey describes the visible shoots of an added uprising against robotization:

  • In a draft paper he co-authored in October, Frey linked automation anxiety and Trump's 2016 election: Support for Trump was greater in areas of relatively high adoption of robots. And lower adoption would have swung Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin to Hillary Clinton.
  • In a study by Pew Research last May, 72% of those surveyed said they were worried about automation.
  • Andrew Yang, a New York technologist, has predicated his presidential candidacy on ringing the alarm about AI and robots.

What resistance may look like: In the Industrial Age, Frey said, people rioted against automation. This time will be different, he said. "Now people have political rights and can vote against automation," he said.

The bottom line: "What form resistance will take, I have no idea," Frey said. "But if the record is any guidance, there will be resistance. The tendencies show there will be."

Go deeper: In August, Frey pushed back against researchers attempting to poke holes in his 2013 paper that he wrote with fellow Oxford University Professor Michael Osborne.

Go deeper

Off the Rails

Episode 5: The secret CIA plan

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer, Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 5: President Trump becomes increasingly rash, and devises a plan to tamper with the nation's intelligence command.

In his final weeks in office, after losing the election to Joe Biden, President Donald Trump embarked on a vengeful exit strategy that included a hasty and ill-thought-out plan to jam up CIA Director Gina Haspel by firing her top deputy and replacing him with a protege of Republican Congressman Devin Nunes.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: CDC director defends agency's response to pandemic — CDC warns highly transmissible coronavirus variant could become dominant in U.S. in March.
  2. Politics: Empire State Building among hundreds to light up in Biden inauguration coronavirus tribute.
  3. Vaccine: Fauci: 100 million doses in 100 days is "absolutely" doable.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode again.
  5. Tech: Kids' screen time sees a big increase.

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.

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