Obama Admits ‘Naivety’ About People Becoming Coders to Escape Poverty

screencap from barack obama interview with decoder

If dozens of the most respected mathematicians and scientists couldn’t get traction when they warned us about AI, perhaps former president Obama might have a bigger platform for the message.

This week’s Decoder podcast, created by The Verge, had Barack Obama interviewed about AI and its dangers on jobs and the economy.

In a fascinating listen, the former president of the US admits there was some naivety back when he was in charge, when experts believed retraining people as coders would be a future-proof way to lift people out of poverty.

“The broader question is going to be what happens when 10% of existing jobs now definitively can be done by some large language model or other variant of AI? And are we going to have to reexamine how we educate our kids and what jobs are going to be available…?

The truth of the matter is that during my presidency, there was I think a little bit of naivete, where people would say, you know, “The answer to lifting people out of poverty and making sure they have high enough wages is we’re going to retrain them and we’re going to educate them, and they should all become coders, because that’s the future.”

Well, if AI’s coding better than all but the very best coders? If ChatGPT can generate a research memo better than the third-, fourth-year associate — maybe not the partner, who’s got a particular expertise or judgment? — now what are you telling young people coming up?”

Obama approached most of the hot topics being discussed today.

While the president still believes in the transformative potential of AI, he did support regulation, saying “we have to be maybe a little more intentional about how our democracies interact with what is primarily being generated out of the private sector.”

He also discussed the concept of free speech on the internet and social media platforms. 

It’s a particularly interesting topic nowadays, when you have platforms like X (formerly Twitter) thriving, while sites like Omegle have to shut down so their owners wouldn’t “have a heart attack”.

Also read: Are We on the Cusp of an AI-Powered Renewable Energy Revolution?

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