Steve Mnuchin, for one, welcomes our new robot overlords.
The treasury secretary said during an interview with Axios on Friday that he was “optimistic” rather than anxious about the effects advances in automation might have on the workforce.
“I’m not worried,” Mnuchin told the site. “Quite frankly, I’m optimistic that’s what increases productivity.”
(“I’m not worried” seems to be a common refrain for Mnuchin, who repeated the phrase at least three times throughout the 40-minute interview.)
Mnuchin also seems blissfully ignorant of the timeframe in which most experts expect artificial intelligence to begin doing low-level jobs.
“It’s not even on our radar screen,” he said. “It’s 50-100 more years” away.
The comments come hours after accounting firm PwC released a report that found that nearly four in ten American jobs could be lost to automation in the next 15 years.
That number is by no means universally agreed upon, though. Other studies have pegged it at as low as nine percent, and a report from McKinsey Global Institute suggested that the change would happen over a much longer period than most experts are predicting.
Still, Mnuchin’s sanguine outlook on the situation doesn’t jibe with any of these reports, and his ignorance of the major near-term impact is somewhat ridiculous, given the numbers.
“We’re never really good at predicting what the next problem is,” he said when asked about potential global economic problems.
Speak for yourself, Twitter said in response.
Wow, talk about somebody who should not be in charge of economic policy… https://t.co/KzgkiGPGCU
Clara Jeffery (@ClaraJeffery) March 24, 2017
How soon will AI be available to run the Treasury? https://t.co/zhrqgtx02u
David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) March 24, 2017
Mnuchin: Losing human jobs to AI “not even on our radar screen.” Um…could someone turn on their radar screen? https://t.co/fd9Cu2RHKa
Carl Zimmer (@carlzimmer) March 24, 2017
Tony Romm (@TonyRomm) March 24, 2017
One part of the labor market expected to be hit the hardest by automation within the next decade is the American trucking industry.
There are 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States it’s the most common job in more than half of all states. And startups like Uber-owned Otto are already testing driverless big rigs.
This topic doesn’t seem to have been raised on Thursday when the president spent part of his day playing around in a truck cab while meeting with the industry’s leaders.
Mashable (@mashable) March 24, 2017
Trump’s original pick for labor secretary, CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder, openly advocated for automating low-income jobs. It’s unclear where his replacement, Alexander Acosta, stands on the issue.
At least one member of the Trump administration seems aware of this impending cliff, though.
Transportation secretary Elaine Chao paid lip service to the impact of driverless technology would have on the labor market last month.
As a former secretary of Labor, I am very, very concerned about that and very cognizant of those challenges,” she said, according to Politico. “So we do have to transition people and we need to keep that in mind.”