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In Robot America, most manual laborers will have been replaced by herculean bots. Truck drivers, cabbies, delivery workers and airline pilots will have been superseded by vehicles that do it all.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
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It’s a true universal basic income, given to everyone in two test neighborhoods in Barcelona, regardless of earnings.
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- Warren submits Guaranteed Basic Income Pilot Program legislation in final act as mayoron December 1, 2021 at 4:39 pm
Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren submitted legislation to the City Council to create a Guaranteed Basic Income (BGI) Pilot Program Wednesday as her final act as mayor.
- Basic Universal Income And Economic Rightson November 29, 2021 at 3:37 pm
India may prove to be 'ground zero' for the coming struggle for economic rights. I sense that the increased groundswell in the west, in favour of adoption of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has gone ...
- Universal basic income in Wales ‘would cut poverty in half’on November 29, 2021 at 3:01 am
Poverty in Wales would be halved if the Welsh Government established a universal basic income (UBI) system in the country, a major study has found. The research, carried out by leading think tank ...
- The case for universal basic incomeon November 24, 2021 at 9:13 pm
"The Case for Universal Basic Income" explores some of the most persuasive arguments for guaranteeing citizens a basic level of income.
- The group that brought a basic income to Compton explains how it works better than welfare, and how they'll bring it to more cities soonon November 23, 2021 at 7:44 am
UBI-style programs have seen a surge in popularity throughout the US. At least 11 direct-cash experiments will come into effect by the end of the year.
- Compton Fights Inequality With Universal Basic Incomeon November 21, 2021 at 12:40 pm
Eight hundred low income households are receiving monthly payments through the Compton Pledge guaranteed income program.
- L.A., Chicago giving away cash with no strings attached to residents in need. Are universal basic income programs working?on November 13, 2021 at 7:35 am
LOS ANGELES – Life was falling into place for Georgia Horton. After more than 20 years in prison, she was building a new path forward with a blossoming career in sharing her story: She went ...
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