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Published on December 20th, 2016 | by Joshua New

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The White House Gets It Half Right on Artificial Intelligence—Mostly Rejecting the False Notion That It Kills Jobs, But Promoting the Canard That It Creates Inequality

WASHINGTON–In response to the White House’s new report, “Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy,” released today, Center for Data Innovation director Daniel Castro issued the following statement:

The Obama administration has become progressively more supportive of AI-driven innovation, but this report shows that federal policy must continue evolving if we are going to capture the full benefit of the technology.

This new White House report rightly extols AI’s potential to create economic and social benefits, and it proposes a number of sound policy recommendations to encourage further development and adoption of the technology in the coming year. Unfortunately, it gives some credence to those who fear that technology-driven automation eliminates jobs before acknowledging that automation also creates new ones. The report also gives undue credence to those who continue to speculate that AI will exacerbate inequality. We urge policymakers, including the incoming Trump administration, to keep these claims in perspective.

The White House is wrong to suggest that AI will power a productivity explosion so great that it destroys jobs faster than the economy can keep up. That idea vastly overestimates the ways in which AI will be able to replace people—and it underestimates the extent to which productivity gains create new job opportunities by putting more money into the economy.

It is encouraging that the White House readily acknowledges the large potential economic benefits of AI-driven innovation, and that the government should pursue a mix of policies and incentives that can maximize the economic benefits of AI, such as increasing access to higher education for low-skilled workers, providing strong government support for research and development related to AI, and strengthening social safety net programs to promote worker retraining. The White House correctly notes that the bulk of new jobs created by AI will not be high-skilled technical jobs, such as computer scientists, as many suggest, but instead will be in other sectors of the economy where companies benefit from AI-driven productivity gains and can thus invest in expanding their market share, such as retail stores or restaurants.

Despite the report’s unwarranted notes of caution, it is a welcome addition to the chorus of voices recognizing the positive potential of AI and the need to have government actively support its development.

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About the Author

Joshua New is a policy analyst at the Center for Data Innovation. He has a background in government affairs, policy, and communication. Prior to joining the Center for Data Innovation, Joshua graduated from American University with degrees in C.L.E.G. (Communication, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government) and Public Communication. His research focuses on methods of promoting innovative and emerging technologies as a means of improving the economy and quality of life. Follow Joshua on Twitter @Josh_A_New.



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