Striving for the highest unemployment rate possible: rooting for basic income and artificial intelligence

Politicians love to have low unemployment rates as part of their political campaign. Most people are worried about the health of the job market and their ability to get a job when needed, so it is not surprising politicians address this view in their platform.

However, in this generation of decentralized communications, artificial intelligence, automation and fundamental social change, it is high time to stop insisting all adults should be holding jobs. We must think ahead to a time where automated systems will be more proficient than human beings at doing just about any job we can think of. After all, that day is not very far off.

Are we going to insist keeping an employee-based economy even if robots and AI can do the job more efficiently? I can guarantee business owners will always strive for better profitability, so if an automaton is more efficient, less trouble and more cost effective as a human worker, decision-makers will always choose the robot.

According to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2017, robots could already take 38% of today’s American jobs.[1] As artificial intelligence and robotics become more sophisticated, this percentage will only increase. The concern is not only about replacing full-time jobs, but also about automation allowing workers to become more efficient thanks to available smart software support. As described in the McKinsey Global Institute report on What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages:[2]

“We previously found that about half the activities people are paid to do globally could theoretically be automated using currently demonstrated technologies. Very few occupations — less than 5 percent — consist of activities that can be fully automated. However, in about 60 percent of occupations, at least one third of the constituent activities could be automated, implying substantial workplace transformations and changes for all workers.”

Today, many experts argue that a job lost to automation is another job created in some advanced field, like robot programming, or artificial intelligence. That is in fact true. However, how many jobs are being created exactly? How many full job-equivalents are lost due to advancements in technology? Coming to a conclusion on this is no easy feat, and one cannot anticipate future transformations to the job market anyway.

If sure if we all put our heads together, we could find a way to keep every adult on the planet employed until retirement, but why should we take that path?

What is certain…

Something we can count on is that we will eventually develop our first artificial general intelligence (AGI). When this happens, that artificial intelligence, along with robotic actuators will not only be able to do any job a human being can do, but also learn any new job that may be created due to advancements in technology and social changes.

Logically, this is the point of inflection we must look for and it is inevitably the end of any employment-based economy. That is the point when employing a human being to work would be bad business simply because automation would be able to do a better job, more efficiently and more cost effectively. No position will be spared of this fate, including company CEOs.

This is the start of the era where giving a job to a human being will be a stupid proposition.

So then, what are the human beings supposed to do with their time? Are we to starve because we are unable to get a job?

Of course not. We would be free to do whatever we feel like and have our basic needs met, because AGI, AI and robotics will be producing everything our society needs at no cost to the individuals. Robots will be producing all the energy needed to run all systems, including themselves, taking decisions and repairing systems on their own with a minimum of supervision. Robots and AI would also be improving themselves as AGI engineers and scientists take on the task of improving our lives more efficiently and more skill than any human being could.

This sounds like science fiction and so far into the future that we needn’t worry about it, right?

Not so. Based on a survey made in 2013 by Vincent C. Müller and Nick Bostrom in which hundreds of AI experts were asked by what year they would see the emergence of human-level machine intelligence (HLMI), the median said there was a 50% likelihood that by year 2040, the first HLMI AGI would be created.[3]

That’s about 20 years from now.

The first step: basic income

Since there is no fighting the future, instead of doing our darned best to keep people at work as a condition for life, we must immediately work to transform the basis of our economy to one that ensures human beings have all basic needs met. We should be aiming at an increasing rate of unemployment as automation renders basic goods and services so abundant that they cost little to no resources to produce and transport. We need politicians that declare their desire to increase the unemployment statistic as high and as fast as possible.

Our governments can distribute a basic guaranteed income to every person within the nation, allowing them to purchase what they need to live and let people creatively find ways to add value to communities. Individuals would then exercise their purchasing power according to the laws of offer and demand. If individuals want more, they can work in jobs they enjoy or create a new business to make a market offer, which in turn can be exchanged against additional money on top of the basic amount.

While our society would move toward fewer and fewer human-held jobs, everyone would have the resources to purchase what their families need. Of course, this transition must be done alongside the intelligent deployment of automation to balance the availability of resources, currency and human work until work necessitating a human being at the task disappears.

A new world

Though it sounds like a fantasy world, directed technology advances within the next two generations can lead us to a state where no one needs to work for a living and where automation is both taking care of our whole economy and the environment but also creating new entertainment opportunities for the nation.

This socio-economical change does not mean most people will be lazy and inactive. It just means that people will have the option to choose an occupation they enjoy, invent, innovate and participate in society in whatever way they desire. Human-produced work will retain value in the same sense as we always love our children’s drawings or singing, no matter how terrible they are compared to professionally created art. No human work will be critical to the security or advancement of society. That will be the domain of the more efficient and enhanced intelligence of automated systems. It leaves room for human beings to focus on endeavors that they find meaningful, such as social interactions, love, creativity, science and family. Without the burden of running the world and managing assets, human stress levels would become so low that crime and frustration will be all but forgotten.

So, to all entrepreneurs, politicians and conscientious individuals on the planet: what are we waiting for?

[1] PwC UK Economic Outlook (March 2017) Uk Economic Outlook — https://www.pwc.co.uk/economic-services/ukeo/pwc-ukeo-march18-full-report.pdf

[2] James Manyika et al. (November 2017). What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages. — https://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/future-of-organizations-and-work/what-the-future-of-work-will-mean-for-jobs-skills-and-wages

[3] Vincent C. Müller and Nick Bostrom (2013) Future Progress in artificial intelligence: a survey of expert opinion. — https://nickbostrom.com/papers/survey.pdf