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.

Go deeper

Updated 1 min ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 20,207,011 — Total deaths: 738,910— Total recoveries: 12,452,222Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 9:30 p.m. ET: 5,140,512 — Total deaths: 164,502 — Total recoveries: 1,714,960 — Total tests: 63,252,257Map.
  3. States: Georgia reports 137 coronavirus deaths, setting new daily record Florida reports another daily record for deaths.
  4. Health care: Trump administration buys 100 million doses of Moderna's coronavirus vaccine.
  5. Business: Moderna reveals it may not hold patent rights for vaccine.
  6. Sports: Big Ten scraps fall football season.
  7. World: Anthony Fauci "seriously" doubts Russia's coronavirus vaccine is safe
Updated 43 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it's too early to say whether next month's elections will be postponed after she announced Tuesday four people had tested positive for COVID-19 after no local cases for 102 days.

Zoom in: NZ's most populous city, Auckland, has gone on lockdown for 72 hours and the rest of the country is under lesser restrictions.

Voters cast ballots in Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Vermont

Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Primary elections are being held on Tuesday in Minnesota, Georgia, Connecticut, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The big picture: Georgia and Wisconsin both struggled to hold primaries during the coronavirus pandemic, but are doing so again — testing their voting systems ahead of the general election. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) is facing a strong challenger as she fights for her political career. In Georgia, a Republican primary runoff pits a QAnon supporter against a hardline conservative.