Artificial intelligence won’t pose a real threat to American jobs for “50 or 100 more years,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Friday.
“In terms of artificial intelligence taking over American jobs, I think we’re so far away from that that it’s not even on my radar screen,” said Mnuchin at a Washington event hosted by Axios. “I think it’s 50 or 100 more years.”
That stands in stark contrast to the position of the Obama administration, which released a report in December warning that AI could threaten anywhere from 9 percent to 47 percent of jobs over the next decade or two. “Job displacement is likely to be one of the most serious negative consequences of AI-driven automation, impacting entire industries and communities,” the report warned.
Pressed to explain his lack of concern, Mnuchin said, “It depends on what you think of artificial intelligence.”
He gave the example of self-driving cars, acknowledging that the widespread use of such technology isn’t that far off.
“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 — you know, R2-D2 taking over your job.”
While Mnuchin doesn’t consider “real technology” like autonomous vehicles to be “artificial intelligence,” that level of automation is likely to have a significant impact on the workforce: 5 million Americans make a living driving.
Mnuchin’s views seem more in line with a McKinsey Global Institute published this year, which argued that AI and automation will impact broad swaths of of the economy but are unlikely to completely replace most jobs. Still, given the significant ways it will change the nature of work, the McKinsey report said that governments will need to provide more support for its citizens. Several tech executives have similarly said the industry should be mindful of its impact on the workforce.
VIDEO: The White House thinks AI could lead to mass job displacement