White House warns AI could heighten inequality

White House warns AI could heighten inequality
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The White House on Tuesday warned that the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) could pose “disruptions” for American workers by potentially eliminating working-class jobs.

In a report examining the economic impact of AI, the Obama administration trumpeted the technological advances that are expected in the coming years, but warned that automating mass amounts of jobs could exacerbate wealth inequality.

“AI should be welcomed for its potential economic benefits,” the report reads. “Those economic benefits, however, will not necessarily be evenly distributed across society.”

In an earlier report released in October, the White House praised the developments made in the realm of AI and promoted the potential benefits the technology could provide for the public and private sectors.

And the Senate Commerce subcommittee on science held a hearing in late November in which lawmakers warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its competitive edge in the AI industry and examined ways that Congress could promote innovations.

But lawmakers have yet to grapple with the effects that automation could have on unemployment. 

Tuesday’s report laid out a number of recommendations for Congress and the next administration to help mitigate any negative economic impact that AI could have on the workforce. The recommendations include strengthening the social safety net, raising wages and investing in retraining and education to keep up with the shifting demands of the economy.

But those ideas are unlikely to be welcomed by Republicans, who will be controlling both the White House and Congress. President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE was propelled during the campaign by his argument that free trade agreements were depriving Americans of manufacturing jobs, but he spoke little about the threat that automation posed to employment.

During a call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, Jason FurmanJason FurmanTrump signals jobs data before report's release, breaking with protocol Overnight Finance: Unemployment rate lowest since 2000 | Trump asks China to slash trade deficit 0B by 2020 | NJ gov signs bill to skirt GOP tax law provision Economy adds 164K jobs in April, unemployment lowest since 2000 MORE, a White House economic adviser who helped write the report, said that the administration did not have any specific predictions about what might happen if Trump and the GOP declined to act on the recommendations that the report outlined.

“Of course, one implication of this analysis is that … if you seriously rolled back the social safety net that would be potentially be more risky at a time when you have these types of changes in the economy,” Furman said.

Ali Breland contributed.