A Silicon Valley Wake Up Call
Justin Kan

Great article, Justin. You mentioned retraining for the next era of jobs. In the past (when say the cotton gin or another industrial revolution piece of machinery was invented, and jobs were displaced, thereby forcing people to retrain), the pace was slow enough that the labor market was able to adjust at a reasonable speed. But automation is replacing jobs so quickly that the ability to keep up with and to find that next wave of jobs is next to impossible.

For that reason, one idea that we’re hearing about more and more is the universal basic income. Society provides you with a fixed amount of money for food, shelter, and healthcare. If you want more, you work. Initial studies have shown that there is not a marked reduction in workforce participation. People still want to work for all the additional things they want out of life. In fact, freed of the imperative to work in a particular job out of necessity, they pursue work in something they are truly passionate about, or a field in which people believe they are the most talented.

If and when we move to a UBI, I think Elon Musk is right: it isn’t going to be an easy transition. The global elites who control the majority of the world’s capital will try to label it as socialism, when in fact it might well spur a more efficient and vibrant form of capitalism. When everyone starts at the same base level, you get the real market price of basic goods like bread, rice, and produce.

The thought of sharing the bounty that has come from advancements in automation is anathema to people on top of the food chain. It’s quite revealing actually. Sadly it shows that greed is a prime motivator for humanity. But if we can battle against our primal urges, there’s a chance society can realize that the advancements in technology and automation were intended to be shared by all of society, not just a few fat cats on the top of the heap. In short, we can still be ambitious and greedy, but not at the expense of the majority of humanity.