Apr 18, 2018

The anti-robot uprising is coming

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

In photos: Authorities issue warning as Americans venture out for Memorial Day weekend

Ocean City in New Jersey on May 25. Photo: Donald Kravitz/Getty Images

Authorities urged Americans to maintain social distancing and wear masks to protect against the spread of the novel coronavirus amid reports of packed beaches and bars during the Memorial Day weekend.

Details: Law enforcement stepped up beach patrols, and there were crowded scenes in several places, notably at Lake of the Ozarks bars in Missouri and at Daytona Beach and on the Gulf Coast in Florida, per AP. Many people did take precautions against COVID-19, as Americans ventured outside for the long weekend some three months after the pandemic began to spread across the U.S

Coronavirus stay-at-home orders crater voter registration efforts

A volunteer looks for persons wanting to register to vote on July 4, 2019 in Santa Fe, N.M. Photo: Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic is scuppering usual "get out the vote" efforts, leading to fears that large swaths of Americans could miss out on this year's elections.

What’s happening: Advocacy groups typically target college campuses, churches, festivals, fairs and other gatherings to seek out people who have yet to register, but many of those places are now closed. Voter registration efforts have largely moved to the internet, but advocates question whether that will be as effective as the person-to-person pitch.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,471,768 — Total deaths: 344,911 — Total recoveries — 2,223,523Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,660,072 — Total deaths: 98,184 — Total recoveries: 379,157 — Total tested: 14,604,942Map.
  3. World: Italy reports lowest number of new cases since February — Ireland reports no new coronavirus deaths on Monday for the first time since March 21 — WHO suspends trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.
  4. 2020: Trump threatens to move Republican convention from North Carolina — Joe Biden makes first public appearance in two months.
  5. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks over Memorial Day.
  6. Economy: New York stock exchange to reopen its floor on Tuesday — White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Charities refocus their efforts to fill gaps left by government.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy