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IBM, GM, Lockheed Martin Join Council on Work Automation

Gerrit De Vynck
Robotic machines weld together the frames of sports utility vehicles (SUV) during production at the General Motors Co. (GM) assembly plant in Arlington, Texas, U.S., on Thursday, March 10, 2016.

IBM, General Motors Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. are among a slate of companies that will advise the government on how to deal with the threat of automation facing American workers, according to a person familiar with the arrangement.

Representatives of the companies will form an advisory board for a council led by Ivanka Trump and Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta. FedEx Corp. and Home Depot Inc. were also confirmed for the board, while Apple Inc. and Blackrock Inc. had considered joining as well, the person said.

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Advancements in artificial intelligence have raised the possibility that algorithms and machines could displace millions of American jobs in the years to come, from truck drivers to radiologists. Tech proponents say machines will help humans focus on the highest-value tasks and avoid dangerous and dull work, while critics fear it will concentrate more economic power in the hands of powerful companies, further increasing inequality.

The companies that join the board will have to pledge to train a certain amount of workers on new skills, the person said. The board will not directly advise the president.

Donald Trump formed advisory boards made up of corporate leaders soon after becoming U.S. president, but membership quickly became a political lightning rod and most company representatives stepped away from the positions. After Trump made comments last August equating the actions of white supremacists with activists protesting racism, the chief executive officers of 3M Co., Merck & Co. and Under Armor Inc., among others, left his manufacturing advisory council, which he later disbanded.

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