I agree. While I was driving around with my friend last year in Hollywood, I showed him a short video I’d taken of the San Diego Public Library’s automated book sorting machine. “Isn’t this great?!” I said, and, to be totally honest, I completely forgot that he did his MA in Library Sciences. Instead of the awed reaction that I expected, my friend flew in fit of rage and fumed that “it is because of technology that no one will have any jobs in the future!” I was stunned because I hadn’t thought about that idea at all up until that point. I just thought it would be great that people would be able to spend more time doing things that mattered rather than doing time-consuming, repetitive, and brain numbing jobs. Then I started to wonder, what are the things that matter? Obviously, more money doesn’t mean greater happiness, but for many of those transitioning from one social class to another (be it lower, middle, upper, or elite), money is a great motivating factor. For those struggling out of poverty, it does make them happier, if just to get food on their plates. So if everyone were to get enough money, then what would be the motivating factor to drive people to create new things?
I lived in the Netherlands for a while to do my Masters and I thought about this question a lot over there. It seems that most of the populations’ basic needs are already taken care of by the government. You don’t really have the ultra wealthy or ultra poor that you see here in the U.S., and most Dutch people that I met seemed generally quite happy about almost everything (except for certain immigrants, another topic altogether). It seems like an effective system, but what I noticed was that it seemed that people have a lot less motivation or enthusiasm for doing things. While here, you might come across someone who is doing something because he or she dreams of buying that big Malibu mansion on the beach, over there no one thinks that way because even if they did make that much money, they’d end up giving the majority of it back to their government anyway (taxes there are about 70%, if I remember correctly). Thus, there was an overall sense of reu
So how could we change our system to a UBI without losing that drive? I think on the whole, our society would be more stable and more secure, but we would also have to change the way people think about incentives and “work.” Work in the past meant “making a living” or making money to survive. When that basic need is already taken care of, people need to think of work as perhaps not something to make a living but to “create a living.” I think it’s also natural for people to not only want, but also to feel that they have a purpose in life.