A great deal of evidence suggests robotics and artificial intelligence will displace huge swaths of the American workforce in the next couple of decades.
But the Trump administration – which has made job creation a central focus – doesn’t seem to think it’s a problem.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Axios cofounder Mike Allen on Friday that the threat of robot automation taking away jobs was “not even on our radar screen,” and that the two-decade timetable grossly exaggerated what is likely “50 to 100 more years away.”
Report after report has forecasted a spike in unemployment if the US doesn’t take steps to help workers as their jobs are scooped up by robots or AI. A 2015 McKinsey report, for instance, found that existing technology could feasibly replace 45% of work activities.
Mnuchin seemed unfazed by that data.
“I’m not worried at all,” he said. “In fact, I’m optimistic.”
During his campaign, Donald Trump repeatedly encouraged companies to “buy American, hire American.” During his presidency, he has pledged to work with large corporations to keep jobs within US borders.
But as Business Insider’s Pedro da Costa has said, many of the jobs Trump wants to bring back have not been shipped overseas – they’ve been irrevocably lost to the cheap, consistent labor of robots. In many industries, such as telemarketing, customer service, and fast-food service, humans can’t compete with the latest technology.
“No one should be under the illusion that millions of manufacturing jobs are coming back to America,” Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, wrote in the MIT Technology Review in November.
Mnuchin also told Allen that Trump had “perfect genes” and an open-door policy at the White House, and that Trump deserved to be on a thousand-dollar bill.