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Alex Hillegass
English 1102H
4/28/2017
Rhetorical Analysis of the Presidential Report: Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy

Technology is advancing faster than ever and computers are able to do jobs previously

only done by humans. As technology gets better at doing everything from driving to stock

trading, people may be needed less and less in the work force. Nobody knows exactly how

technology will change the economy and workforce, but governments must be prepared to deal

with any negative effects that may emerge.

The December 2016 report, Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy

approved by the Office of the President, is a comprehensive report on how advances in

technology may affect the United States economy. The first 20 pages covers what groups of

people would be most impacted by automation. Then the report discusses ways that the

government can try to minimize any negative effects to the economy. It takes a strong stance on

maximizing technological development while also training American workers for future jobs.

Heavy influences from the Democratic Party can be seen in the recommended policies to combat

negative affects of technology but the recent election of Donald Trump may cause large changes

in future policies. The following three strategies are the policies recommended to help the

economy through this time of change.

The three strategies outlined are as follows

1. Invest in and develop AI for its many benefits

2. Educate and train Americans for jobs of the future

3. Aid workers in the transition and empower workers to ensure broadly shared

growth (9)
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Each of these is focused on increasing worker productivity while also ensuring workers get to

share in the economic growth to come. For details on how each of these strategies will be

implemented see the section on Policy Responses, page 26.

Methods

Analysis of this report is going to look at many aspects of how the text interacts with the

audience. The lense I will use for my analysis is A Rhetoricians View from our book From

Critical Thinking to Argument starting on page 371. This lense allows me to look at the report

from a production, distribution, and consumption standpoint. Production takes a look at what

cultural values are present in the text. Distribution is where (the location) the audience

encounters the produced effects. Consumption studies the impact cultural codes have on us as

consumers (Rhetoricians). In addition to The Rhetoricians View, I am going to examine

how ethos, logos, and pathos are developed throughout the report. I will also look at kairos and

how the timing of this report prevents it from having any lasting impacts on the general

population.

Results and Analysis

Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy was produced by team members

from the Council of Economic Advisers, Domestic Policy Council, National Economic Council,

and a few other important organizations. There is very little room for bias in the data but the bias

of the writers is evident when the conclusion is reached. Strong liberal and democratic values are

seen in the recommended strategies for response. The recommendation that future policies give

all Americans access to an affordable post-secondary education that prepares them for good

jobs (32) and we modernize and strengthen the social safety net (35) show these strong liberal
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values. This same report written under the new Trump administration would likely have a

different conclusion and would recommend different policies.

Distribution of the report is relatively simple because the direct audience is policymakers

and media outlets. To publish the final report they just added a page on whitehouse.gov and

announced the completion of the report. It was then read by the policymakers and media outlets

that have a deep understanding of the economy and how policies may affect it. The indirect

audience is the general public who, for the most part, is not going to read the full report

themselves. They consume it by reading secondary sources. The news websites get to give the

public their interpretation of what the report means for their audience. This report in particular

was talked about in Forbes, NewsWeek, Wall Street Journal, and various tech blogs.

The layout of the report is logical and even redundant to save the reader some effort. The

first five pages are an executive summary of how the economy is going to be affected, how the

Obama administration would like to respond, and a conclusion. This directly mimics the layout

and headings of the rest of the report. There are seven sections with the most important being

Economics of AI-Driven Automation (8), Policy Responses (26), Conclusion (43). These

detail the groups most likely to be affected by automation, describe what plans can be put in

place to prevent negative effects, and provide a disclaimer that predicting the future is difficult

and the report is just their best guess based on research.

Data is used generously to develop logos throughout the report. Starting on page 8, there

are a series of graphs and statistics similar to the one below that can be found on page 10.
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These are used to outline the different ways the economy may be affected. These statistics help

supplement the argument by showing how technology has changed the workforce already. They

cover every topic from the macroeconomic effects on productivity (11) to the effects technology

will have on people based on their income or education level (16). The report is research-based

and each piece of data is cited from reputable sources. Sources are used even when describing

the policies to be used in response to the coming economic changes (29).

Pathos is used sparingly in the report because it is a government document. The purpose

of it is to educate the public on this topic and show how they are prepared to respond. The little

emotion that can be seen in the report is of a calm government. While people like Elon Musk are

claiming there will be large changes to the economy (Clifford), the government is showing that

they are prepared and have a plan in place. The important lack of pathos also helps contribute to

the reports ethos.

The credibility of the source is enforced by the US government and the White House

asking reputable research institutions for the report and signing off on it. There is a certain

expectation that people can trust the research because of a track record of past research being
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verified. Throughout the report, ethos is developed through using good research and showing a

real understanding of how policies can affect the economy. Data is presented in easily readable

graphs like the one found above and on page 10 of the report. By integrating good sources,

limiting strong emotional writing, and presenting everything in this easily readable way the

reader trusts the report.

The timing of this report is interesting. In October 2016 the United Nations released a

report called Robots and Industrialization in Developing Countries (Kozul-Wright) and many

media outlets have been discussing the implications of technology (Clifford). Each of these

sources have drastically different tones and conclusions than the report endorsed by the United

States government. The report also comes during a transition in the US government. The Obama

administration is on the way out while the Trump administration prepares to make big changes.

The report may only be a few months old but it is already outdated and no longer supported by

the Executive Office of the President.

Discussion

Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy may not be used as a guide for the

current administration but it still provides an indepth look at how the economy may be affected.

The report effectively gets the point across that we need to prepare for some major changes to

the workforce but that there are no easy answers for the problems we may face. In my research I

would like to use this report as an informed source on economic impacts and a source for ways to

handle any negative impacts. The sections detailing potential policies to combat these negative

effects are especially important. Very few people have come out with solutions to mass

unemployment. Having a point of view that is well researched goes a long way when other

solutions such as a universal basic income are just starting to be studied.


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Works Cited

Artificial Intelligence, Automation, and the Economy. Washington, D.C. : Executive Office of

the President, 2016., Dec 2016. EBSCOhost,

https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/whitehouse.gov/files/images/EMBARGOED%20AI2

0Economy%20Report.pdf

Atkins, Anthony A Rhetoricians View: Rhetorical Analysis of Nontraditional Texts From

Critical Thinking to Argument. Ed Sylvan Barnet, Ed Hugo Bedau, Fourth Edition,

Bedford/St. Martins, 2014, 371-388.

Clifford, Catherine. Elon Musk: Robots Will Take Your Jobs, Government Will Have to Pay

Your Wage. CNBC, CNBC, 4 Nov. 2016,

www.cnbc.com/2016/11/04/elon-musk-robots-will-take-your-jobs-government-will-hav-t

o-pay-your-wage.html. Accessed 21 Mar. 2017.

Kozul-Wright, Richard. Robots and Industrialization in Developing Countries. Oct.

2016,http://unctad.org/en/PublicationsLibrary/presspb2016d6_en.pdf. Accessed 21 Mar.

2017.