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The Rise of Robots: Universal Basic Income the Answer?


What will we do when about 50% or more of the population are without jobs?

Reference pic: Pixabay/Leroy Skalstad

I finally finished the book Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford. He offers a possible solution to the coming massive unemployment.

But first, let's list some of the common suggested solutions:

  • Make education affordable, especially college level education. There's a couple of flaws with this: not everybody is suited for college education. As a matter of fact, the minimum IQ level is 115 (if I recall correctly) and only about 30% of the population meets this level. Even if everybody were able to be trained at the college level, there are just not enough jobs being created that will require such education. A statistic the author mentions is that fully a third of the engineers or scientists cannot find jobs that utilizes their degree.
  • Stop the automation. This is not likely to happen since historically, technology has made lives better so no one is going to stop this train.
  • Make automation work with humans as a complement, rather than a complete replacement. Again, not likely because the capital market will strive for the lowest cost and greatest profit. Having a combination of computers/software and humans will usually mean greater costs than just computer/software alone.

The solution the author offers is the same one I've been hearing the technology leaders have been offering: universal basic income. There's a host of issues with this, the top being - which rich person is going to be willing to be taxed to fund the basic income? Today, there is a constant call for lower taxes, lower taxes and lower taxes. Then there is the tax inversion scheme that companies undergo to avoid taxes. So who is going to be willing to pay for this? Then there is a perception that these people are the "takers" (remember Mitt Romney and the 47% of the "takers"?). Once those privileged have that wealth, they are not going to want to give to the "takers". We have a winner takes all mentality in our markets.

In order for the wealthy to give up their money to fund the universal income, there has to be a fundamental change in our value system, especially in regards to what the capital market should be doing. Right now the capital market says give all of the productive rewards to the shareholders/owners/capitalist rather than sharing it. However, changing the purpose of the capital market is equally unlikely... until the capital market collapses. It has to collapse in some fashion because when 50% (I say 90%) of the population do not have jobs and have no way of purchasing things, the market no longer has consumers. That's a very alien capital system. It's probably at this point someone or a group will come up with an alien type of society for survival sake.

I don't know. While the universal basic income is a nice idea, I just don't think it will happen. Also, the people promoting this idea keep talking about $10,000 per year of basic income. Wow, that's poverty level for everybody. That's not really alleviating the situation. So no, the capital market will probably collapse and society will undergo drastic changes in search of providing a chance at life, liberty and pursuit of happiness for everybody.

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