“Automation is relentless and it’s going to accelerate,” Obama said in his last interview as president.

Barack Obama is taking a “quick vacation” after leaving office Friday. But before he handed over the keys to the Oval Office, he urged his fellow Democrats to pay attention to job automation.

For his last interview as president, Obama sat down Wednesday with Pod Save America, a podcast hosted by four of his former aides: Jon Favreau, Dan Pfeiffer, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor. He told them that he expects advancements like “driverless Uber” will be followed by job automation “in office buildings across the country.”

“We, I think, probably have to be more creative about anticipating about what’s coming down the pike,” Obama said. “Automation is relentless and it’s going to accelerate.”

“You saw just what happened to retail stores, sales this past Christmas,” he added. “Amazon and online sales is killing traditional retail, and what’s true there is going to be true throughout our economy.”

The former president said politicians on the left need to listen to the real economic fears of Trump voters and “be a little bolder” in how they try to solve those problems. He wondered if the solution might be a “job-sharing economy so that everybody has work, because it turns out that work is not just about finances, but it’s about dignity and feeling like you’ve got a place in the world.”

Here’s the full audio of the podcast interview. Below that is a transcript of Obama’s remarks about tech.

We all want free and fair trade, and you can argue about negotiations with China, or taking a tougher stance with Mexico, or what have you, but the fact is — and the data just shows this — the jobs that are going away are primarily going away because of automation. And that’s going to accelerate. Driverless Uber and the equivalent displacement that’s going to take place in office buildings across the country is going to be scary for folks. Which means we’re going to have to start thinking about where the jobs come from, and how much government involvement is there in the marketplace, and do we have a job-sharing economy so that everybody has work, because it turns out that work is not just about finances, but it’s about dignity and feeling like you’ve got a place in the world? How do you pay for that? If more and more people are working in the service sector, how do we make sure that they’re getting paid enough? In addition to making an argument that, “If you want a better deal, then you better start unionizing and organizing, ‘cause otherwise you’re going to get screwed,” in addition to making the argument that if you’re in the service sector right now, you should be fighting for a higher minimum wage ‘cause across the board, everybody in the service sector is going to be better off … In addition to those traditional arguments, we, I think, probably have to be more creative about anticipating about what’s coming down the pike. Automation is relentless and it’s going to accelerate. You saw just what happened to retail stores, sales this past Christmas. Amazon and online sales is killing traditional retail, and what’s true there is going to be true throughout our economy.


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Author: Eric Johnson

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