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I was having a conversation with someone about whether or not robotics and AI will cause problems by eliminating jobs. They said:

"People worried about joblessness when we started to mechanize farms, their worries never panned out, therefore your worries now are misplaced."

Or to use another example:

"The last big asteroid that came close to earth didn't crash into us, therefore we'll never be hit by one ever."

Without any justification as to why the two situations are similar this line of thinking seems like it is a fallacy. If so, what is the name for it? If not is there any other word or term that describes the line of thinking?

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    It's called a Black Swan. Seriously. Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 4:18
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    In ancient Rome in 78 AD, this form of reasoning might have been called "Pompeiian reassurance."
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 6:28
  • here's an example: the onion makes fun of concerns over napster:"Napster killed Kid Rock, there's no doubt about it," Rosen said. "As soon as that web site went up last October, people stopped buying his music. It's not surprising, either: Why would anyone in their right mind pay $12.99 for a CD with artwork when they could simply spend seven hours downloading the compressed MP3 files of all the album's songs onto their home computer's desktop, decompress it into an AIFF sound file, and then burn the data onto a blank CD?" link
    – user31341
    Commented Jan 11, 2014 at 16:41

1 Answer 1

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This question is arguably better placed in the philosophy forum, but the answer is "false generalization" or "false analogy" meaning an argument that relies on superficial similarities to draw unjustified conclusions.

However, it's worth noting in the case of this particular argument, it's not clear that mechanizing farms did not in fact lead to loss of jobs, since there is currently widespread unemployment and a far lower percentage of people are now involved directly in agriculture.

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    I've also heard it called the inductive fallacy; just because a man with one hair is bald, and the next hair doesn't un-bald him, doesn't mean that a man with 1 million hairs is also bald
    – colinro
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 12:17

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