Turning coal miners into coders is not the answer to automation

Human value is tied to the job market. Will automation be a full-on crisis?

ANDREW YANG: We've all deeply, deeply internalized the logic of the marketplace, which is that our value is reflected in our economic value. This is one reason why we have otherwise very, very smart well-intended people talking about how to turn coal miners into software coders. Why is it that we think that they must become software coders? It's because their earlier purpose in the market no longer exists, and so we have to find them a new one and being a software coder seems like something that the market wants. Now unfortunately the way that the market is evolving is that more and more of us are going to struggle to outcompete software, artificial intelligence, and robots more and more where robots are going to be to drive a car and a truck better than us very, very soon. AI can already outperform the smartest doctors at identifying tumors on a radiology film. AI can already surpass experienced corporate attorneys at editing documents and contracts. And so right now we're trapped in this mindset where we all have to find value based upon the market's estimation of what we can do. But the market's going to turn on more and more of us very, very quickly and has nothing to do with our merit. That radiologist went to school for a long time, but they just can't see shades of gray that the AI can. And the AI can reference millions of films whereas the radiologists can only reference thousands. And so we have to start evolving the way we think of ourselves and our value in this society.

If we rely upon the market, we're going to follow the market off a cliff because the market's going to turn on more and more of us over time, and we can already see that the market does not value many of the things that are core to human existence like caring, nurturing, and parenting and caregiving. And I use my wife as an example. My wife is at home with our two boys, one of whom is autistic. And the market values her contribution at zero whereas we all know that's nonsense and that her work is incredibly valuable and difficult. It's not just the caring and nurturing roles. It's also arts, creativity, journalism, increasingly, volunteering in the community. All of these things are getting valued at zero or near zero and declining. And so what we have to do, we have to say look, the market is not omniscient. The market's valuation of us and our activities and their value is something that we essentially invented. And we need to invent new ways to measure what we think is important. And I think that this is the most important challenge of our time because if we do not evolve in this direction, we're going to follow the market to a point that's going to destroy us where eventually AI is going to be able to outprogram our smartest software engineers. And then what will we ask people to do that has value? So we have to start getting ahead of this curve as fast as possible, and this is why I'm running for president.

  • Andrew Yang is running for president in 2020 as a Democrat. In this video, he discusses the greatest challenge of our time: automation and human-centered capitalism.
  • Currently, a person's value is linked to the economic value of their job. So the soon-to-be-extinct coal miner should find new purpose by becoming a software coder, right?
  • That's shortsighted, says Yang. One day soon, even the best coders will be outpaced by AI. We need to prepare for the inevitable future by shifting how we fundamentally think about human value.

Study helps explain why motivation to learn declines with age

Research suggests that aging affects a brain circuit critical for learning and decision-making.

Photo by Reinhart Julian on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

As people age, they often lose their motivation to learn new things or engage in everyday activities. In a study of mice, MIT neuroscientists have now identified a brain circuit that is critical for maintaining this kind of motivation.

Keep reading Show less

Scientists discover why fish evolved limbs and left water

Researchers find a key clue to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.

Surprising Science
  • A new study says solar and lunar tide impacts led to the evolution of bony fish and tetrapods.
  • The scientists show that tides created tidal pools, stranding fish and forcing them to get out of the water.
  • The researchers ran computer simulations to get their results.
Keep reading Show less

AI reveals the Sahara actually has millions of trees

A study finds 1.8 billion trees and shrubs in the Sahara desert.

Credit: bassvdo/Shutterstock
Surprising Science
  • AI analysis of satellite images sees trees and shrubs where human eyes can't.
  • At the western edge of the Sahara is more significant vegetation than previously suspected.
  • Machine learning trained to recognize trees completed the detailed study in hours.
Keep reading Show less

Optimism may be dangerous in a pandemic, say behavioral psychologists

Most people believe themselves to be less at risk from COVID-19 than others similar to them, according to a recent UCL survey conducted in the U.S.

  • A study surveying 1,145 people in the U.S. found that the majority of people believed that they were less likely to catch the virus than the average person, regardless of the person's age or gender.
  • The most effective way to counter the damaging effects of cognitive bias in the context of COVID-19 may be by calling on empathy in individuals.
  • The dangerous effects of optimism bias may be compounded by confirmation bias, salience bias, and internet echo chambers.
Keep reading Show less