DC policy-maker: Invest in AI, don’t worry about your jobs
Thu 27 Oct 2016
Speaking at a Nvidia technology conference, the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) has suggested that the U.S. is under-investing critically in AI technology, and that fear of being automated out of a job is one of the factors holding back progress in a field that “has the same explosive potential as the internet”.
Jason Furman, appointed to the CEA by President Obama in 2013, was participating in the inaugural keynotes at Nvidia’s GPU Technology Conference in Washington, and commented: “People should be more concerned about enabling AI, and less concerned about it taking our jobs away.”
Furman went on to criticise the current level of government investment in AI, asserting that it represents “only $200 million in basic AI research annually.” He continued “Studies have found that the optimal level of public funding needs to be about 2-4 times what we’re spending now.”
Furman, a former advisor to Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign, said that misgivings about robots destroying jobs are nothing new, and were evident also in the 1930s when the New York Times published the headline ‘Mr. Robot Often Outshines His Master’.
Furman has caused concern in the past for his enthusiastic stance on globalisation, among other controversial economic issues. Several Labor organisations took exception to Obama’s appointment of Furman in 2008, circulating email messages containing quotes from Thurman’s work, though campaign officials at the time defended the quotes as being out of context.
Marco Trbovich, now Vice President of Strategic Communications for Tricom Associates, said of Furman in 2008 “He is a very bright fellow, but he is an unalloyed cheerleader for the trade policies that have been very destructive to manufacturing jobs in this country”. Lori Wallach, Director and Founder of Global Trade Watch, in the same period criticised Furman as a “liability” because of “his anti-worker writings”.
Furman was joined by France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation, who opined that artificial intelligence has “the same explosive potential as the internet – it has the potential to revolutionize everything we do.”