Jan 31, 2018

Robots could be a self-fulfilling nightmare

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

AI hands are beginning to fear that, if leaders and ordinary people are certain that robots and automation will push humans out of work, no one will try to forestall what they regard as the inevitable. That is, intelligent machines really will take over, as the most apocalyptic forecasts suggest.

The bottom line: Experts debate much about the future impact of artificial intelligence, but there is no dispute that the world is headed for — or already in — a massive economic disruption in which whole categories of jobs will be wiped out. An increasing consensus is that the main answer is a massive reskilling effort to move endangered workers into entirely new careers.

Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork, bristles at some of the more extreme forecasts of the AI future, such as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak's view that humans could become "pets" of robots. Such talk is "incredibly irresponsible in my view because it will become a self fulfilling prophecy," Kasriel tells Axios.

"If everyone is convinced of that outcome, then no one has any incentive to invest in fixing the system (and in particular, in massive investments in skills training), which will then ensure that we, truly, don't have the skills needed to compete and will lead to a massive amount of unemployment, income inequality and social unrest."

Matthew Sigelman, CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, worked on a study released last week at Davos that maps out how that profound reskilling of workers can take place.

  • He agreed that attitudes matter in terms of avoiding the nightmare forecasts.
  • "When you are convinced of a negative outcome, it's pretty hard to escape it," he told Axios.

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China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown

People wearing facemasks stand near Yangtze River in Wuhan. Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

China has lifted its lockdown of Wuhan, the city in Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: As cases surged in January, China took the draconian step of sealing off the city of 11 million and shutting down its economy — a response that was viewed at the time as only possible in an authoritarian system, but which has since been adopted by governments around the world.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 1,381,014— Total deaths: 78,269 — Total recoveries: 292,973Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 378,289 — Total deaths: 11,830 — Total recoveries: 20,003Map.
  3. Trump administration latest: Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill
  4. Federal government latest: Senate looks to increase coronavirus relief for small businesses this week — Testing capacity is still lagging far behind demand.
  5. States update: New York death toll surged to its highest one-day total as state predicts a plateau in hospitalizations.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The race to reopen America
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill

Glenn Fine, acting Pentagon watchdog

President Trump on Monday replaced the Pentagon's acting Inspector General Glenn Fine, who had been selected to chair the panel overseeing the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: A group of independent federal watchdogs selected Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, but Fine's removal from his Pentagon job prevents him from being able to serve in that position — since the law only allows sitting inspectors general to fill the role.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy