Is Universal Basic Income really a solution?
Debate over a basic income and it merits have just begun, but its dangers and not dealing with rampant wealth inequality is falling on deaf ears.
What if the implementation of a Universal Basic Income is like a rogue algorithm in capitalism whereby wealth inequality is allowed to increase and keep growing? The analogy is a bit like, how do you stop a super computer vying to take control of the entire world?
It’s not as if the future of work is a safe bet or robot taxes will be given evenly and fairly to everyone. It’s not as if the future AI will be programmed without the biases of their white young male makers and more importantly, those who are paying them.
A Citizen of Utopia fed by the State
Of course in a Utopia near you, to be a citizen of the new world state would amount to this, $1,000 is deposited into your bank account, no matter who you are. So yes, this miracle money (benefit) of the state, would be subtracted from other, currently existing welfare benefits that participants may be receiving, and, crucially, the payments will continue regardless of any other income that is earned. Altruistic, or a way for the wealth ultra-elite to keep their power?
Living in a World State Governed by AI
As a citizen of the world state, why would we want to keep you at the poverty line, in a world where you would have little chance of ever changing your condition? Indeed, that $1,000 money, might be the blood money to remain a “free slave”, in a society not unlike Plato’s utopia. Except there, Artificial Intelligence would decide where you fit in society based upon your personality, intelligence and make-up not unlike the kind of social credit system China is now creating circa 2020. In such a world, Artificial Intelligence will help us activate our free-will, or so the story will go.
It’s tremendously ironic then, that these growing fears surrounding job automation and how Artificial Intelligence will evolve have simultaneously stoked an interest in basic income and push us in the direction of a Neo-capitalism that will feel more like a robot-socialism. But will it feel like Utopia? It will certainly feel different, but not so much perhaps, as news algorithms already dominate media companies such as Facebook and Google and how we access information. Just, multiply that by 1000x and implement it to our occupation, economic and pragmatic well-being in all aspects of our lives.
Freedom in the Robot Economy
AI will enable to ultra-elite to extend human life and more curiously, AI will be enable us to “know ourselves” in a way that might facilitate how human beings bond with AI in the future. Knowing how homo sapiens likely react to higher powers, a former Google and Uber engineer’s dream of deitifying AI in the Way of the Future doesn’t sound as ridiculous as it does today in 2017. Regardless of what Elon Musk says, he is right about a human-AI hybrid species evolving, and quickly at that.
It’s not just the future of work that causes us anxiety, it’s also how AI can be weaponized against people, citizens and yes, even workers. The invention of money, religion and any authority has always been a means for homo sapiens to control each other, and it’s hard seeing AI and UBI as being any different. The premise is good, that we are all worth something and all of our basic needs should be resolved. Basic income may also be the greatest threat to liberty, in that it pacifies whatever peasant class will exist (it appears to be considerable), and creates a dull utopia where not only aren’t we marching in the streets for our rights, we’re almost grateful to the benevolent AI run world-state to have the opportunity to participate.
Tax, Burden and Human Welfare
A Universal Basic Income may not be as shiny as articles in the World Economic Union might want us to believe. In a world plagued by uncertainy about the Singularity, global warming and the increasing role of AI in our lives, will $1,000 enable us to find peace in a world of monopolies, drones and an AI that will soon have enough data to know us, better than we know ourselves? UBI isn’t a new idea, but what if it’s less about social justice and more about social control? What if wealth inequality is allowed to continue by its very implementation?
UBI is typically heralded as a significant advance in human welfare, with studies that skew us into believing that social welfare is the best solution in the automation of thousands of tasks that homo sapiens used to do, that will be done by AI, robots and automation. A basic income is somehow supposed to pacify our belief about our place in the world, a world that will likely increasingly not have place for us and even be hostile to our existence quite possibly.
It’s not even clear if the robot economy will fairly be taxed, nor is it clear who will pay for this basic income. Proponents believe a UBI it may encourage creativity and risk-taking. If I know my basic security is being taken care of by the state, do I then rush to serve the state with social entrepreneurship and making the world a better place? That would indeed be better than the web we have created for profit, where Google and Facebook rule with an iron fisted algorithm, that destroys more than it creates, and profits more than it helps the world move forward.
Without Dealing with the Wealth Inequality Gap, how is Basic Income ethical?
Having a collective conversation about basic income without talking about income inequality is dangerous. If you want to talk about social injustice, you must eradicate income inequality that threatens capitalism, democracy and human rights themselves.
Millennials and GenZ have been completely disenfranchised from the mainstream leadership of the future by income inequality and it’s not changing for the better: How has the percentage share of national income of the richest 1% changed over time? How can the future utopia tolerate a world of such radical inequality?
Source: F. Alvaredo, A. B. Atkinson, T. Piketty and E. Saez, 2013. ‘The World Top Incomes Database’
The Data Age and the 4th Industrial Revolution
Home sapiens have an innate sense of right and wrong, built by a firm history of collaboration, reciprocity and subservience to the good of the tribe. Is a basic income bribery then to the rule of not just global corporate tyranny but robot overlords as well? We’re already adapting to “alternative work arrangements” and we’re poorer for the necessity of having to do so. Would a $1,000 make much of a difference to our spirit and sense of empowerment? Or is receiving a UBI like accepting an NDA to remove ourselves from all serious discussion of social inequality in the future?
Tests of UBI and research on it can’t be trusted in the world we currently live in. Without fully discussing the dangers of UBI, by the time it’s implemented, the automation economy will already be underway and more advanced. There simply isn’t time to adapt to a future that’s already in process. The epidemic of mistrust and leadership gap of homo sapiens means, by defacto, Artificial Intelligence is bound to become more and more of an authority in our lives. The social credit system of China, and UBI in other parts of the world, simply herald this fact.
What does it means when there are a chorus of chorus of tech leaders unanimously advocating for universal basic income? What are the implications of such a majority opinion by Silicon Valley’s finest and most influential? America has been stripped of its liberty and opportunity by a rising wave of wealth inequality like we have never seen before. Given an immature AI and machine intelligence fully in their control, what can the bottom 40% truly hope for? To be allocated some miniscule portion of subsistence like a number in a database?
Autonomy, Elitism and the Coming Robots
Some of us are beginning to wonder if a Universal Basic Income is actually anti-American. If Capitalism and opportunity is broken, let’s fix it. Let’s not simply implement safeguards to keep the status-quo in effect that prolongs wealth-inequality that damages our collective psyche in even more profound ways than it already has. Capitalism without limits creates a hackable democracy, as we have clearly been witness to in the current decade. We have to make sure Basic Income isn’t simply another carefully orchestrated hack, one that exploits the masses and profits the few.
We know that millions of jobs will be lost due to automation, but we don’t know what the solution is. We aren’t just not preparing for a world governed by Artificial Intelligence, we are creating the economic systems that might imprison us further, under the guise of social justice. If that’s not a dangerous dilemma, I do not know what is. The now famous 2013 study from Oxford University predicts that future technology could displace nearly half of American jobs. One must assume this will cause some social unrest. Shouldn’t creating an AI system that can evaluate and help motivate us to find our true place in the world a more worthwhile cause than a system of social welfare?
As the robots increase, the labor force will decrease, and the truth is, we don’t know what kind of a world that will feel like. We know that the gig-economy is rising and that there exists already significant skills gap for the professions of the future and that many of those future jobs, haven’t been created yet. A world wide implemented social credit system seems inevitable, clearly in such a system a UBI would be a part of that. However, there are many other parts of the puzzle that need to be thought out in order to justify such an imposition. If I opt-in to such a system of obligation to provide for my basic needs, what am I losing as a citizen of the world state?
With some 57% of jobs around the world at risk of being displaced by automation, do I really want to put my faith in Elon Musk and Sam Altman to decide the world I want to live in. As tech companies greatly increase their influence on our collective future, disrupting the economy and implementing a new Artificial Intelligence upon the world, the web and the future of work, we have to be aware of the consequences of a rising China and Silicon Valley’s ethics in building a new world. The same world where Facebook avoids responsibility for being a media company, because it would be too expensive to think about the ethics of its channel.
What replaces the decline of the Middle Class could impact if homo sapiens will survive the next couple of centuries. Issues of how we react to the rise of Artificial Intelligence might mean if human beings walk the stars or never get out of the orbit of Earth (and maybe Mars). Basic Income, is an important sub plot and chapter in our journey as a species in an evolving future of work, as we move to a world with smarter cities, electric self-driving cars and robots at the service of increasingly impoverished consumers.
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