The artificial intelligence revolution isn’t coming, it’s already here.
Take it from Gov. Jared Polis, a veteran of the tech startup scene introduced as Colorado’s “innovator in chief” Wednesday at a Denver Startup Week panel on the evolution of technology and its impact on everyday life.
“I was just at Amazon’s new facility in Thornton,” Polis said. “Inside, where we used to see human-operated forklifts they have little intelligent robots that are carrying the crates around.”
The question now, Polis said, is how will public policy take shape around that AI technology so that it supports innovation but keeps human beings relevant in the economy going forward?
Polis sat opposite Nolan Bushnell during the session. Another serial entrepreneur, Bushnell founded Atari Corp. in 1972 and later launched Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theater. His Atari video game console, noted platform for the game “Pong,” birthed the video game industry. As tech gets smarter and smarter, Bushnell said, there will be fewer and fewer “mundane tasks” for people to do.
“The … creative destruction of work is going to be a constant and accelerating problem,” he said. “People cannot plan on working at the same job for more than about 10 years going forward.”
Earlier this month, Polis signed an executive order creating a new division within the Colorado Department of Labor Employment. The so-called “Office of Future of Work” will be tasked with talking to business leaders, workers, education professionals and others and making policy recommendations aimed at ensuring Colorado and its residents are in a position to adapt to changes in the tech-shaped economy and thrive.
The office will be led by department of labor executive director Joe Barela. The order did not dedicate any new funding but it leaves the door open for a budget in future years.
J.B. Holston questioned if Polis is going far enough. The dean of the Daniel Felix Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Denver, Holston moderated Wednesday’s discussion. He noted that a handful of states — most recently California — have created committees around how AI will reshape their economies.
“There is more we can do,” Holston said after Wednesday’s panel.
Holston partnered with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., earlier this year to launch an AI strategy group.
“We need a coherent national strategy on AI that galvanizes innovation, plans for the changes to our workforce, and is clear-eyed about the challenges ahead. Colorado is well-positioned to shape those efforts,” Bennet said in a statement at the time.
Bushnell put a fine point on the stakes for the working class when discussing one of his favorite artificial intelligence-driven technologies: autonomous vehicles. He called the technology “more important than world peace” because, he says, more people die as a result of traffic accidents than warfare. But, he added, a network of autonomous vehicles stands to put 15 million people who drive for a living out of work in the U.S.
Bushnell does see hope though. If the U.S. were to build the transportation network of his dreams — subterranean, high-speed, ultra-safe — he estimated that construction and maintenance of the infrastructure “would keep us 100% employed for the next 100 years.”