WH: AI Will Increase Inequality Gap, Gov Will Need To Expand Welfare

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Alex Pfeiffer White House Correspondent
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The White House concluded in a recent report that artificial intelligence-driven automation will disproportionately hurt low-skilled workers and increase the income inequality gap. To address this, President Barack Obama’s administration suggests increasing the safety-net.

“While, in the past, many jobs paying decent wages could be done with low levels of skill, continuing changes in technology, including AI, will make such jobs less common in the future,” the Executive Office of the President states in the Tuesday report.

The report concludes it is difficult to predict the exact effects of AI in the long term but says, “Some specific predictions are possible based on the current trajectory of AI technology. For example, driving jobs and housecleaning jobs are both jobs that require relatively less education to perform.”

Self-driving technology has already started to be implemented with Uber and has been tested out by Budweiser to deliver beers. The White House report says that the Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that “2.2 to 3.1 million existing part- and full-time U.S. jobs may be threatened or substantially altered by [automated vehicle] technology.” (RELATED: Self-Driving Technology Is Poised To Put Millions Out Of Work)

The report does says that AI technology would be a positive as “technological progress is the main driver of growth of GDP per capita.”

It continues on to say: “Living standards and leisure hours could both increase, although to the degree that inequality increases—as it has in recent decades—it offsets some of those gains. AI should be welcomed for its potential economic benefits. Those economic benefits, however, will not necessarily be evenly distributed across society.”

The White House report says that the policy plans they want to pursue are investing and developing AI, training and educating workers to participate in an economy with AI, and prevent increasing inequality from AI technology. Part of the policy solution to prevent increased inequality, according to the White House, is increasing government entitlements.

The report says: “Job displacement is likely to be one of the most serious negative consequences of AI-driven automation, impacting entire industries and communities. Since its inception, unemployment insurance has been a powerful tool to prevent a job loss from hurtling a family into poverty. Last year alone, more than 7 million working Americans relied on the program to get by in tough times. Yet its protections have weakened over time, and today coverage by the program is at its lowest level in at least 50 years.”

It suggests that, “Because workers may be unemployed for longer periods of time as they retrain or shift occupations, benefits should be restored to 26 weeks across the country. The program should also provide up to 52 weeks of additional benefits in states experiencing high levels of unemployment or rapid job loss to dampen the effects of mass layoffs on local economies. This would minimize the chance that these layoffs would lead to broader regional or national recessions.”

The report also says that good policy plans would include increasing the minimum wage, funding for food stamps, and taxes on wealthy Americans. Jason Furman, chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers chair, has said that his biggest worry about AI is that “we don’t have enough [of it].”