The answer from panelist Wilson White, Google’s Public Policy and Government Relations Senior Counsel, was an emphatic ‘yes.’
“For the past several centuries, humans have existed alongside technological innovations,” said Wilson, who added that he does not see that changing in the decades and centuries to come.
Panelist Dr. Daniel Araya, a Research and Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institution, cited the once vibrant farming economy as an example of how the American workforce has adapted to changing markets. But Araya conceded that the automation age will be like no other and will require new ways of thinking and coping.
“We need to invent new solutions, and that discussion is not happening,” he said.
Google's Wilson White speaks.
Panelist Dr. Algernon Austin, an economist at Demos, is one of the co-writers of the CGPS autonomous vehicles report, which predicts that a rapid implementation of such technology could kill four million jobs.
“With the loss of jobs, new jobs are created, so the net change probably won’t be four million,” said Austin, who most fears that those who would be impacted by such technology are disadvantaged groups, like African-Americans and Latinos, already struggling to make ends meet.
“We should all be worried about that,” he said.
Panelist Dr. Williams Spriggs, the chief economist at the AFL-CIO and a Howard University professor, said the tech sector’s grandiose plans for automated vehicles and other innovations will be stuck in park if it does not address the gap between productivity and wages that has long hampered the American worker. If there is not a vibrant and prosperous workforce to buy and support innovations, no one wins, Spriggs said.