Let’s say computers come for most of our jobs. This may not seem likely at the moment; computer scientists and economists offer wildly varying ideas for how deeply automation will affect future employment.
But for the sake of argument, imagine that within two or three decades we’ll have morphed into the Robotic States of America.
In Robot America, most manual laborers will have been replaced by herculean bots. Truck drivers, cabbies, delivery workers and airline pilots will have been superseded by vehicles that do it all. Doctors, lawyers, business executives and even technology columnists for The New York Times will have seen their ranks thinned by charming, attractive, all-knowing algorithms.
How will society function after humanity has been made redundant? Technologists and economists have been grappling with this fear for decades, but in the last few years, one idea has gained widespread interest — including from some of the very technologists who are now building the bot-ruled future.
Their plan is known as “universal basic income,” or U.B.I., and it goes like this: As the jobs dry up because of the spread of artificial intelligence, why not just give everyone a paycheck?
Imagine the government sending each adult about $1,000 a month, about enough to cover housing, food, health care and other basic needs for many Americans. U.B.I. would be aimed at easing the dislocation caused by technological progress, but it would also be bigger than that.
While U.B.I. has been associated with left-leaning academics, feminists and other progressive activists, it has lately been adopted by a wider range of thinkers, including some libertarians and conservatives. It has also gained support among a cadre of venture capitalists in New York and Silicon Valley, the people most familiar with the potential for technology to alter modern work.
Rather than a job-killing catastrophe, tech supporters of U.B.I. consider machine intelligence to be something like a natural bounty for society: The country has struck oil, and now it can hand out checks to each of its citizens.
These supporters argue machine intelligence will produce so much economic surplus that we could collectively afford to liberate much of humanity from both labor and suffering.
The most idealistic thinkers see the plan as a way to foster the sort of quasi-utopian future we’ve only encountered in science fiction universes like that of “Star Trek.” As computers perform more of our work, we’d all be free to become artists, scholars, entrepreneurs or otherwise engage our passions in a society no longer centered on the drudgery of daily labor.
The Latest on: Universal basic income
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The Latest on: Universal basic income
- Calls made for government to trial universal basic income in Portsmouthon November 12, 2020 at 3:27 am
CALLS have been made to trial a state payment scheme in Portsmouth that would mean everyone - including those in employment - was entitled to a basic allowance from government.
- Rep. Ilhan Omar Calls for Government to Provide a Universal ‘Guaranteed Income’on November 11, 2020 at 1:34 pm
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.) wants the government to provide people in the United States with what she calls “a universal basic income” or a “guaranteed income.” ...
- Australia’s Racist Cashless Debit Card System Should Be Replaced With A Universal Basic Incomeon November 9, 2020 at 8:13 pm
Imagine the current welfare system, only without all the punitive, dehumanising measures and enough to live comfortably above the poverty line.
- Universal basic income pilot scheme for Londoners rejected by Labouron November 9, 2020 at 1:54 pm
The politicians supporting this motion included many Labour PMs, Welsh AMs, peers and councillors calling for Universal Basic Income (UBI) in their areas.
- Universal basic income: After a self-taught course in macroeconomics, I believe it's time for £2,500 a month for all – Jim Duffyon November 5, 2020 at 8:49 am
Perhaps the older I get, the more cynical I become. So many of the “truths” I was taught in school and university have been blown out the water as false, inaccurate and downright wrong when I learn ...
- Universal income gains traction on the righton November 5, 2020 at 2:23 am
When structural economic change, a global pandemic and "culture wars" collide, the effects are potentially transformative. Leftists and libertarians share an interest in new solutions, but not where ...
- Could a universal basic income work in Australia?on November 4, 2020 at 11:40 pm
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are fans of the idea – but what could an unconditional, regular payment from the state to all – mean for our way of life.
- Twitter CEO Leads Effort To Help 7 Million People With Universal Basic Incomeon November 3, 2020 at 1:13 am
Tech billionaire Jack Dorsey is yet again making attempts towards establishing a universal basic income. The renowned cofounder of Twitter is reportedly spending millions in a new experiment that will ...
- Why universal basic income can 'stave off' hunger, destitution, social unreston November 2, 2020 at 4:34 pm
A Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been strongly advocated by economists, industry captains and policy-makers across all ideological hues. It is perhaps the only way to stave off large-scale hunger, ...
- Julian Casablancas and Andrew Yang Talk Universal Income, Democracy Reforms on ‘S.O.S.’on November 2, 2020 at 11:12 am
Former Democratic presidential candidate appears on second installment of Strokes frontman's new Rolling Stone interview series ...
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