Billionaire investor Jeff Greene is digging into his own pockets to address what he believes is a big issue: robots.
Greene, founder of the Greene Institute, sponsored the Closing the Gap conference last week, hoping that attendees would develop solutions on creating a more inclusive global economy. According to him, a looming threat comes from technology, where he contends automation is becoming increasingly disruptive to both white-collar and blue-collar jobs.
He warned that "what globalization did to the blue-collar worker in manufacturing over 30 or 40 years, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data, robotics I believe will do to the white-collar workforce in the next five to 10 years," Greene said. His comments echoed the widening opinions of experts who believe robots and AI pose a serious challenge to middle-class vitality.
"This is a national emergency and I'm going to address it myself if no one else will," Greene said.
Not everyone agrees. Ken Moelis, CEO of investment bank Moelis & Co., told CNBC that while changes in technology might be disruptive, they aren't necessarily going to wipe out swaths of the labor force. In fact, he said technology can be fundamentally good for consumers, but less so for some businesses.
"In our world right now you have so much technology driving price transparency, pricing power, efficiency. These are great things," he told "Closing Bell" last week. However, "if you are a retailer ... you better take your profit down and give the consumer an awfully good deal or Amazon is going to replace you."
According to Greene, Amazon isn't just replacing retailers — it's replacing employees as well.
"Just look at an Amazon distribution center, the robots are stocking the shelves. Go take a look at the video of a Tesla factory, the welders are robots," Greene said. "This is really happening. This is not 'The Jetsons' anymore. This is happening today."