There’s a lot of hype surrounding the idea that we’re approaching the “Automation Age.” As technology continues to advance, particularly in regards to artificial intelligence, more and more jobs and activities are transitioning from being controlled by man to being automated. We experienced a similar shift during the Industrial Revolution when large-scale production was first introduced through assembly lines. However, technology had only advanced so far and there was still high demand for human capabilities in many fields.
Once technology and artificial intelligence (AI) becomes advanced enough, which, in some cases it already has, human beings will not be able to compete for certain jobs. One study conducted by Oxford University found that in some countries, automation poses a threat to 85% of jobs. This begs the question: how will humanity thrive during the Automation Age? Elon Musk claims universal basic income will be the answer.
Why Elon Musk Proposed Universal Basic Income During the Automation Age
Once many jobs become automated, it’s inevitable that unemployment rates will rise. As mentioned above, much like assembly line workers being put out of jobs during the Industrial Revolution, the same will occur during the Automation Age. For example, cars that drive themselves have already been developed and are a safer, more economical alternative to taxi drivers, so these automated cars will eventually replace taxi services.
Low-income jobs are at significant risk of being replaced altogether, including those working in production, fast food, and many other industries. Developing countries face a much greater risk of unemployment because when millions of factory workers lose their jobs due to automation, they will have fewer or no alternatives. High-income jobs will be at risk of being replaced by AI as well if a computer is capable of performing the same work, or at least part of it.
We need to develop a way to smoothly transition into this new era of technology, and the best tactic, according to Musk, is to implement a universal basic income (UBI). In other words, the government would pay all citizens the same amount of money so they have adequate financial means to live.
“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk tells CNBC. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”
Watch the full CNBC interview with Elon Musk here:
The Automation Age Could Inspire More Creativity
In the interview, Musk makes an excellent point in favour of AI when he says, “people have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things. [And they would have] more leisure time.” If machines replace the more repetitive, mundane work that’s inherent in some fields, it would provide people with more time to focus on the creative side of their work.
Humans have a competitive edge against machines: our brains. We comprehend societal structures and beliefs and are able to easily adapt to situations. We all have creative minds that are waiting to be unleashed, a trait that AI does not have. Creativity involves cognitive processes that are different from the prevailing modes of thought or expression; so, perhaps the Automation Age will be simultaneous with the Era of Creativity. However, creativity doesn’t come as easily to some as it does to others, so UBI could help during this transitional period.
Why Universal Basic Income Could Be The Solution
This summer, Switzerland considered implementing a Swiss basic income of 2500 Swiss francs per month. Although the standard of living is pretty high in Switzerland, this is still a considerable amount of money, especially given the fact that it would be in addition to their personal income. Even though Switzerland’s Federal Council and Parliament opposed the initiative, the vote generated a lot of discussion about UBI in the global community.
During a WIRED interview at the end of August 2016, U.S. President Barack Obama and Entrepreneur and Director of MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito, discussed how numerous jobs will be automated and how AI will eventually take over many fields, including those that are deemed high-income. Obama explained, “Whether a universal income is the right model — is it gonna be accepted by a broad base of people? — that’s a debate that we’ll be having over the next 10 or 20 years.”
I believe UBI could potentially represent a solution to the inevitable Automation Age; however, in order for this to be successful, we’d need to significantly change our political systems and our values. If we maintained the same systems and implemented a UBI, governments would likely raise taxes to support the additional spending, just as the Swiss government warned they’d do if a basic income was administered.
Taxes do not need to increase if we simply reallocated where our tax dollars are being spent. For example, in the U.S., $598.5 billion are spent on military and $52.6 billion are allocated for black budget programs annually. Military spending includes all regular activities of the Department of Defense war spending, nuclear weapons spending, international military assistance, and other Pentagon-related spending. However, military spending benefits the elite more than it benefits the people. We no longer need war to secure our freedom and safety, so why does the U.S. government spend over half of tax payer’s dollars on this?
The simple answer is because the elite profits from war, which is why false flag terrorism exists, otherwise known as the idea that terrorist attacks are created, perpetuated, and/or funded by Western governments and their allies in order to justify the infiltration of other countries for ulterior motives. If the government used tax payers dollars for the benefit of society rather than the elite, government spending would look very different and the U.S. could easily afford UBI.
There Is Already Enough Money In The World For Everyone To Thrive
A UBI wouldn’t be necessary if global economic inequality wasn’t so apparent. I’m not referring to the standard wage gaps discussed in mainstream media or Forbes’ annual list of the wealthiest people, but rather, the elite, the true top 1%. Among them include the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds, both of whom are estimated to have a net worth of well over a trillion dollars.
The top 1% owns more than the other 99% put together and 62 people own as much wealth as the poorest half of the entire world’s population (1, 2). If the gap between the elite and the poor shrunk just slightly and the elite’s wealth was partially redistributed, we could all thrive. Instead, approximately 1 billion people suffer from hunger, despite the fact that we currently grow enough food to feed 10 billion people.
While AI may seem scary, it could be an incredible opportunity to advance society. Rather than having to slave away over your jobs, you could have your basic needs met and have more free time with the help of AI. If our intention with AI is to better society as a whole, then this may be a blessing in disguise.
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