Hillary Clinton went on a whirlwind tour of Silicon Valley yesterday, giving public chats at Google, Facebook, and Twitter. As is tradition, Google chair Eric Schmidt sat town for an hour-long interview with Google’s high-profile guest and peppered her with philosophical questions.
The most interesting question came from an audience member who ask Clinton how should plans to solve for the fact that computers are increasingly replacing jobs. Economists debate whether super-smart computers will eventually eliminate most jobs, starting with the less-skilled variety.
You can watch the full interview below. But, essentially the one solution she hesitantly proposed is “subsidized employment,” where the government creates financial incentives businesses to keep people working. Her answer begins around 56:00 in the video below.
“I’m really glad you asked that,” said Clinton, “because I don’t have a quick, glib answer to give you. But I can tell you that I’d like to have any thoughts from all of you, because you are making this new world.”
She was adamant that a laissez-faire approach to the problem was not acceptable. “I don’t think it’s enough to basically say that everyone else is just going to have to get used to it, live with it,” she argued, noting that inequality is detrimental to both “social cohesion” and democratic decision-making.
Google co-founder Larry Page has proposed a solution where everyone works part-time:
“Most people like working, but they’d also like to have more time with their family or to pursue their own interests. So that would be one way to deal with the problem, is if you had a coordinated way to just reduce the work week. And then, if you add slightly less employment, you can adjust and people will still have jobs.”
Even though economists debate whether the economy will, in fact, get to a place where computers have replaced most jobs, Clinton said she believed “everybody is going to get to it”.
She concluded that the issue is, “One of the most serious questions we have to figure out how to answer.”