Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is warning that artificial intelligence will transform the relationship between employers and employees — and that many Americans will find themselves working for the rapidly growing tech.
Reich, who served as labor secretary during the Clinton administration, stressed in an interview that the tech may increase efficiency, but will also be extremely destabilizing for the U.S. middle class. He noted that 16-38% of workers are independent contractors and said AI is going to “create a different kind of employment relationship.”
“We’re not going to be working for big companies. We’re not going to be working directly for them. We’re going to be working for AI intermediaries and platforms,” he said in the interview with CNBC.
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“Those intermediaries and platforms are going to be paying us a kind of spot auction rate, that is, what is our demand at the moment?” he said.
“Now, you might say that that’s very efficient, but it is also extremely destabilizing in terms of our lives. I mean, how can we possibly plan our lives if we are in a spot auction market in terms of what we earn? Things we take for granted, all of the labor protections of the last 120 years, everything… AI could eradicate all of them.”
The rapid rise of AI has raised both excitement about the potential for such advanced technology, and also concerns about the implications that come from its broader use in society — particularly how it affects the workforce.
A recent Pew Research survey found that a majority of Americans are “more concerned than excited” by the increased use of AI in daily life, a number that has increased dramatically in the last few years.
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Meanwhile, lawmakers have also been monitoring the topic, with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY signaling he is serious about pushing through a regulatory framework for the technology.
“This is not going to be easy, it will be one of the most difficult things we undertake, but in the twenty-first century we cannot behave like ostriches in the sand when it comes to AI,” Schumer said in a letter Friday. “We must treat AI with the same level of seriousness as national security, job creation, and our civil liberties.”
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Reich suggested that the rise of the technology would require rethinking long-debated ideas, such as a universal basic income.
“People have got to have enough money in their pockets to buy all the things that the new economy is capable of producing. If you’ve got AI and all of these platforms, and you’ve got people who are basically no longer needed — huge numbers of people — how do you get money in their pockets to buy everything the economy is capable of producing? You simply can’t have an economy under those circumstances.”
Fox News’ Liz Elkind contributed to this report.
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