Andrew Yang

Put 'Humanity First,' Demands 2020 Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang

No robots need apply.



"All you need is self-driving cars to destabilize society," said former tech executive Andrew Yang in The New York Times. The longshot Democratic presidential candidate added, "That one innovation will be enough to create riots in the street. And we're about to do the same thing to retail workers, call center workers, fast-food workers, insurance companies, accounting firms." Yang basically lays out his campaign platform in his new book, The War on Normal People: The Truth About America's Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future.

The book's publicity blurb warns:

Rapidly advancing technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation software are making millions of Americans' livelihoods irrelevant. The consequences of these trends are already being felt across our communities in the form of political unrest, drug use, and other social ills.

Yang cites a 2017 McKinsey consultancy report that calculated that as many as 70 million American jobs would disappear by 2030 owing to robots and automation.

Yang's solution to the impending automation crisis is providing a "Freedom Dividend" of $1,000 per month to every American between the ages of 18 and 64. That would amount to about $2.9 trillion annually. For comparison's sake, President Donald Trump just proposed for next year a $4.4 trillion federal budget featuring $1 trillion in deficit spending.

A considerably more optimistic view of the benefits of artificial intelligence and automation was offered by Sebastian Thrun, Google X co-founder and now CEO of the online education company Udacity. Earlier this week at the the World Government Summit* in Dubai, Thrun argued that what artificial intelligence does to us "is that it turns us into superhumans. It will take our brains and put them on steroids. You want to free humanity of the slavery of repetitive work and replace it with highly creative work." Thrun acknowledged that "some jobs will go away, very repetitive work, of course. But it will be replaced by created work, so we have to move from a repetitive working society into a creative society where we invent new things."

Just as electricity and internal combustion engine boosted human physical capacities, artificial intelligence will boost our mental and intellectual capacities. Artificial intelligence will not replace workers; it will enhance them. Putting "humanity first" means melding with the coming advancements in nanotech, neurotech, biotech, and infotech.

For more background, see my Reason article, "Are Robots Going to Steal Our Jobs?," and Deirdre McCloskey's "The Myth of Technological Unemployment."

*WGS describes itself as "an international knowledge exchange platform at the intersection of government, futurism, technology and innovation."