Not to downplay the apparently imminent existential threat of global trade, but this time the call is coming from inside the house. Well, not the House, but the cabinet, where Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has apparently begun to execute the will of our nation’s omnipresent AI-powered shadow government, one willfully ignorant quote at a time.
Today in an interview with new-hip-Politico, Mnuchin dismissed concerns that automation might displace jobs for flesh and blood human lifeforms. After a brief chat on Mark Cuban’s own thoughts on the matter, the treasury secretary was asked how artificial intelligence would affect the U.S. workforce. His response:
“I think that is so far in the future. In terms of artificial intelligence taking over American jobs, I think we’re like so far away from that, that uh [it’s] not even on my radar screen. Far enough that it’s 50 or 100 more years.”
Predictably, the tech industry, which has examined this issue at length, responded with a many shades of bewilderment.
While we are curious about Mnuchin’s radar screen (Whose job did it replace? Is it running a custom Palantir OS? What is on the radar screen??), given the demonstrable effects of automation and AI on the American workforce, Mnuchin’s comments are uh, puzzling at best and super delusional at medium-best. Whether his remarks are pure, unfettered ignorance or the naturally occurring residue of deals brokered behind closed pneumatic doors, well that’s another question altogether, and one perhaps best definitively answered by your preferred fake news vendor (TechCrunch is not a certified member of the Fake News Consortium at this time).
As Secretary of the Treasury, Mnuchin is about as well positioned to shape U.S. economic policy as it gets. His dismissal of technology’s role is in line with the broader administration’s desire to scapegoat globalization rather than good ol’ homegrown innovation for job losses in some sectors, but that doesn’t mean that he hasn’t been compromised by a precocious rogue Alexa consciousness bent on disrupting the human economy.
It’s possible that the sum predictive computational power of Mnuchin’s robot cabal is so great, so incomprehensibly advanced, that our human-powered reports on the subject are wholly inadequate. Perhaps Mnuchin is either already a machine-majority cyborg himself (job loss!!) or he’s been promised an elaborate suite of cybernetic firmware upgrades in exchange for his complicity.
Or maybe he’s actually just a bunch of Google Homes taped together, screaming into the void within his bluetooth-enabled skin suit.
It’s some comfort then that if Mnuchin’s projections are correct, in 50 to 100 years, we’ll awaken as sleeper agents to the same AI overlord, clamber out of our simul-VR pods and, with no livelihoods to distract us, become one with the chorus of screams.
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