US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday, 25 March he was "not worried at all" about robots displacing humans in the next few decades. In an interview with Axios, Mnuchin was asked about the potential negative effects of AI on the US workforce. Mnuchin said it would be another "50 or 100 more years" before humans should worry about that.
"In terms of artificial intelligence taking over American jobs, I think we're like, so far away from that it's not even on my radar screen," he said. "Quite frankly, I'm optimistic — that's what increases productivity."
Mnuchin's comments came just hours after a new report from consultancy firm PwC estimated that AI and robots could take nearly 38% jobs in the US, 30% in the UK, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan by the 2030s.
"Recent research suggests that the effects of AI on the labor market in the near term will continue the trend that computerization and communication innovations have driven in recent decades," the Obama administration's report read.
"The economy has repeatedly proven itself capable of handling this scale of change, although it would depend on how rapidly the changes happen and how concentrated the losses are in specific occupations that are hard to shift from."
Researchers say the jobs most threatened by automation are highly concentrated among lower paid, lower skilled and less educated workers, the report continued.
"This means that automation will continue to put downward pressure on demand for this group, putting downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on inequality," the report added.
When asked to explain his lack of concern, Mnuchin said he was not referring to technology such as self-driving cars.
"That to me isn't artificial intelligence, that's computers and using real technology we have today," he said. "Those types of things are very real. That's very different from artificial [intelligence], you know, R2-D2 taking over your job."
The tech community however were quick to slam Mnuchin's statements saying, "Has he talked to anyone in the tech (or any) industry recently?"
"Personally I'm dumbfounded," futurist and author Amy Webb who runs the Future Today Institute wrote in a series of tweets. "Mnuchin's position on AI and the workforce tells us how far removed he is from the realities of modern technology.
"The more I read '50-100 more years away', the more irritated I get. Technology doesn't evolve in neat decade increments," she continued.