When robots eat your job, will a basic income save you?
The robots are coming! The robots are coming! And they’re coming for our jobs, according to the headlines. It’s a common saying here in Silicon Valley that no matter what job you do, there’s a startup working hard to automate it.
You might be skeptical that a machine is about to take over your career. But tech experts are concerned. Here at AJ+, we’re looking into the future of work with a new series, Robot Revolution. We spoke with entrepreneurs, futurists and politicians about the upcoming tectonic shift in employment — and with some of the workers who could lose their footing.
So what are some options for smoothing the transition? One proposal is to give everyone a universal basic income (UBI). The premise is simple: The government takes a fixed amount of money — probably not enough to live large, but definitely enough to help — and distributes that to each citizen. Usually monthly.
No requirements. No strings.
If your first reaction is “that’s socialism!” then consider this: Basic income has attracted a wide variety of political bedfellows. Various versions of UBI have seen support from free market economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, tech titans Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, labor unions, feminists and even Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s an idea whose time may have come, if the current tests are any indication. Basic income experiments are being run in Finland, Canada, Kenya, India and in Oakland, California, by tech entrepreneur Sam Altman.
Why are so many people interested in UBI? Here are some reasons — and some objections.
- A safety net: There isn’t much room for debate here: Studies have consistently shown that cash transfers, pegged to the right amount, are effective at reducing poverty. But some conservatives worry that a UBI would make people more dependent on government.
- Job flexibility: Employers have been pushing for a leaner workforce, and a basic income could help workers between gigs, since it wouldn’t expire like unemployment. On the other hand, job seekers may not be as desperate to take the first thing that comes their way, so companies might have to sweeten the deal.
- Less bureaucracy: Libertarians feel that it would be a lot simpler and cheaper to give everyone money than to maintain a range of welfare agencies that administer benefits. But liberals argue that the government will always do a better job of ensuring that things like healthcare and housing are affordable.
- Responsibility: Libertarians favor trusting people to know how to use their money best, rather than letting the government do it for them. Liberals counter that cash payments won’t reduce inequality if lower-income people continue to face higher relative costs of living and other structural barriers to saving.
- Purchasing power: Companies need customers, and a UBI might stimulate the economy in a more regular, robust way. Critics have suggested that could lead to price inflation, but there isn’t much evidencefor that.
- It’s universal! If everyone has a stake, then a UBI would be politically dangerous for Congress to play games with. Though if funding a basic income means a reduction in established services, like Social Security, then you might end up with a taxpayer revolt.
All this push and pull should tell you something: There’s no single thing called “basic income.” Like any political terrain, it’s a range of proposals being fought over by different groups with different agendas. And make no mistake: One of those sides aims to use basic income to replace the entire welfare state. That plan comes across loud and clear from American political scientist Charles Murray — previously known for dubious arguments about racial hierarchies in intelligence. His revised 2016 book In Our Hands proposes to get rid of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment insurance, housing assistance, food stamps and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, among others. All of that would be replaced by UBI.
In response, liberals point out not just that the welfare state is actually very efficient, but that government agencies do a better job than cash payments of guaranteeing access to basic resources. Take the price of housing. In the U.S., rent hit an all-time high in 2017, and homeownership keeps declining. If a basic income doesn’t rise in proportion to housing costs, and if cities don’t control soaring rents, critics argue that UBI won’t amount to much more than a tax transfer to landlords.
Here in San Francisco, where AJ+ is based, out-of-control housing costs mean people of lower income keep getting pushed further and further away from the jobs they have to commute to. Part 2 of our Robot Revolution series looks at how cities may be transformed by the rise in automation:
When you pull back, the debate about basic income is really about larger questions, like the nature of work itself. Does everyone need a job? Do people need to be employed full-time, or only when work is necessary? If many of our jobs were automated, and a social safety net gave each person the freedom to define work for themselves — caring for elders, greening a neighborhood, launching a startup — would that outcome be more socialist or libertarian?
One recent book, Peter Frase’s Four Futures, takes for granted that most jobs will eventually be automated, and illustrates a quartet of outcomes depending on how we solve the question of scarcity of resources. Two of the endgames are pretty bleak, like scenes from cult ’80s movies that poke fun at mindless bureaucracy or eternal war.
It’s hard not to feel that note of pessimism in the U.S. National identity here has long been intertwined with the Protestant work ethic, imbuing the virtues of hard labor with the same aura as religious salvation. Just in the last few weeks, news stories have highlighted Republicans’ plan to impose work requirements on programs like Medicaid, subsidized housing and other forms of welfare.
But some outcomes are more optimistic. Various strains of what’s being called “accelerationism” argue that we should embrace the sci-fi aspects of the emerging manufacturing environment — by, for example, demanding the full automation of most jobs along with a standard of living that meets most people’s basic needs. Some of these trends lead to surprisingly rosy visions for the future.
What’s clear is that something will need to be done to address growing inequality. In the U.S., productivity (how much companies produce) has risen over 73% since 1973, while real wages haven’t really grown in half a century. Some pundits have conjured up fears of a popular rebellion, but it’s not clear whether massive job losses would lead to mobs with torches and pitchforks. After all, as once-reliable industries have reduced their need for workers, the same areas have been hit by the opioid epidemic and rashes of suicides in the farming and mining sectors, among others.
The final video in our series addresses automation and inequality — as well as some of the proposed solutions:
When robots eat your job, will a fundamental earnings prevent?
By admin By Christopher Dare
The robots are coming! The robots are coming! They usually’re coming for our jobs, in response to the headlines. It’s a standard saying right here in Silicon Valley that it doesn’t matter what job you do, there’s a startup working laborious to automate it.
You is likely to be skeptical machine is about to take over your profession. However tech consultants are involved. Right here at AJ+, we’re trying into the way forward for work with a brand new sequence, Robotic Revolution. We spoke with entrepreneurs, futurists and politicians in regards to the upcoming tectonic shift in employment — and with a number of the employees who might lose their footing.
So what are some choices for smoothing the transition? One proposal is to provide everybody a common fundamental earnings (UBI). The premise is straightforward: The federal government takes a set amount of cash — in all probability not sufficient to reside giant, however positively sufficient to assist — and distributes that to every citizen. Often month-to-month.
No necessities. No strings.
In case your first response is “that’s socialism!” then take into account this: Fundamental earnings has attracted all kinds of political bedfellows. Numerous variations of UBI have seen assist from free market economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, tech titans Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, labor unions, feminists and even Martin Luther King Jr.
It’s an concept whose time could have come, if the present exams are any indication. Fundamental earnings experiments are being run in Finland, Canada, Kenya, India and in Oakland, California, by tech entrepreneur Sam Altman.
Why are so many individuals excited about UBI? Listed here are some causes — and a few objections.
- A security web: There isn’t a lot room for debate right here: Research have constantly proven that money transfers, pegged to the correct amount, are efficient at lowering poverty. However some conservatives fear UBI would make individuals extra depending on authorities.
- Job flexibility: Employers have been pushing for a leaner workforce, and a fundamental earnings might assist employees between gigs, because it wouldn’t expire like unemployment. Alternatively, job seekers is probably not as determined to take the very first thing that comes their manner, so corporations may need to sweeten the deal.
- Much less forms: Libertarians really feel that it will be so much easier and cheaper to provide everybody cash than to take care of a spread of welfare companies that administer advantages. However liberals argue that the federal government will at all times do a greater job of making certain that issues like healthcare and housing are reasonably priced.
- Accountability: Libertarians favor trusting individuals to know how one can use their cash finest, slightly than letting the federal government do it for them. Liberals counter that money funds gained’t cut back inequality if lower-income individuals proceed to face larger relative prices of dwelling and different structural obstacles to saving.
- Buying energy: Corporations want prospects, and a UBI may stimulate the financial system in a extra common, sturdy manner. Critics have instructed that might result in value inflation, however there isn’t a lot proof for that.
- It’s common! If everybody has a stake, then a UBI can be politically harmful for Congress to play video games with. Although if funding a fundamental earnings means a discount in established companies, like Social Safety, you then may find yourself with a taxpayer revolt.
All this push and pull ought to inform you one thing: There’s no single factor known as “fundamental earnings.” Like all political terrain, it’s a spread of proposals being fought over by completely different teams with completely different agendas. And make no mistake: A kind of sides goals to make use of fundamental earnings to interchange the whole welfare state. That plan comes throughout loud and clear from American political scientist Charles Murray — beforehand recognized for doubtful arguments about racial hierarchies in intelligence. His revised 2016 ebook In Our Palmsproposes to eliminate Social Safety, Medicare and Medicaid, unemployment insurance coverage, housing help, meals stamps and the Kids’s Well being Insurance coverage Program, amongst others. All of that will get replaced by UBI.
In response, liberals level out not simply that the welfare state is definitely very environment friendly, however that authorities companies do a greater job than money funds of guaranteeing entry to fundamental sources. Take the worth of housing. Within the U.S., hire hit an all-time excessive in 2017, and homeownership retains declining. If a fundamental earnings doesn’t rise in proportion to housing prices, and if cities don’t management hovering rents, critics argue that UBI gained’t quantity to rather more than a tax switch to landlords.
Right here in San Francisco, the place AJ+ relies, out-of-control housing prices imply individuals of decrease earnings maintain getting pushed additional and additional away from the roles they need to commute to. Half 2 of our Robotic Revolution sequence seems to be at how cities could also be reworked by the rise in automation:
Whenever you pull again, the controversy about fundamental earnings is basically about bigger questions, like the character of labor itself. Does everybody want a job? Do individuals have to be employed full-time, or solely when work is important? If a lot of our jobs have been automated, and a social security web gave every particular person the liberty to outline work for themselves — caring for elders, greening a neighborhood, launching a startup — would that end result be extra socialist or libertarian?
One latest ebook, Peter Frase’s 4 Futures, takes without any consideration that almost all jobs will finally be automated, and illustrates a quartet of outcomes relying on how we clear up the query of shortage of sources. Two of the endgames are fairly bleak, like scenes from cult ’80s motion pictures that poke enjoyable at senseless forms or everlasting struggle.
It’s laborious to not really feel that be aware of pessimism within the U.S. Nationwide id right here has lengthy been intertwined with the Protestant work ethic, imbuing the virtues of laborious labor with the identical aura as non secular salvation. Simply in the previous couple of weeks, information tales have highlighted Republicans’ plan to impose work necessities on packages like Medicaid, sponsored housing and different types of welfare.
However some outcomes are extra optimistic. Numerous strains of what’s being known as “accelerationism” argue that we must always embrace the sci-fi elements of the rising manufacturing atmosphere — by, for instance, demanding the complete automation of most jobs together with a lifestyle that meets most individuals’s fundamental wants. A few of these traits result in surprisingly rosy visions for the longer term.
What’s clear is that one thing will have to be executed to handle rising inequality. Within the U.S., productiveness (how a lot corporations produce) has risen over 73% since 1973, whereas actual wages haven’t actually grown in half a century. Some pundits have conjured up fears of a preferred riot, but it surely’s not clear whether or not large job losses would result in mobs with torches and pitchforks. In any case, as once-reliable industries have diminished their want for employees, the identical areas have been hit by the opioid epidemic and rashes of suicides within the farming and mining sectors, amongst others.
The ultimate video in our sequence addresses automation and inequality — in addition to a number of the proposed options: