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CGP Grey released an amazing video today: Humans Need Not Apply, which is basically about how we are now entering our second ecno-techno revolution (the first was with basic atomization and the doing away with a bunch of basic labour as humans and horses were replaced by brainless machinery) where by new smart bots are going to be replacing a whole lot of people in the work force and new high tech jobs are being created at a tiny tiny fraction of the rate of other jobs being destroyed. Paper napkin estimates could place job displacement/unemployment easily from 25% to 45% in the not to distant future. Don’t believe? Charlie Stross has been banging on for a while now about how self driving cars will fairly rapidly replace any other kind of cars which has second order effects like killing any kind of paid driver from limo to taxi to buy to trucker to heavy machinery like at mines to dump truck driver. And the same can be applied across just a shocking number of industries. Seriously though, just go watch the video.
Done? Ok. So maybe now it’s time to talk about Basic Income [or this interesting article] (again) yes? I think we need to just drop any kind of “but it’s supporting the freeloaders” style arguments. Already now I’d argue they aren’t worth your time because there is a lot of evidence in support of many socialist programs and safety nets that even though they do bleed into some of that, over all they are a boon to society as many “able bodied” and “hearty contributor” citizens are able to bounce back more rapidly (or at all). But that’s nothing compared to the fact that very soon half of all of us may be unemployed with more on the way. As CGP Grey mentioned, the Great Depression was at unemployment levels of a “mere” 25%. Anyone want to imagine the economic collapse we’d be facing at higher levels of rampant poverty and starvation and lack of ability to support yourself? If a quarter to half the population around these parts suddenly couldn’t get by? And this will be just about as bad for the other half still employed because they will be deriving their wealth from the economy, which, as we said, will be in free fall collapse. So basically everyone is doomed if that happens.
So again I say, Basic Income. Economy is pretty much defined as the velocity of the flow of money (I’m not an economist). We need people to have money to spend to keep it all working for the few people still “contributing” and extracting additional wealth that way. Also for the reason we don’t want everyone to starve to death in our robot utopia future. Finally we have gotten rid of scarcity and work and yet everyone is poor and starving except the robots and maybe the 1% (maybe)? Only humans…
There’s another effect of this though. Tax. Corporate tax to be exact. If the majority of people aren’t extracting wealth from the economy except in the form of Basic Income, then all the big gains will be made by corporations, that will now be “staffed” largely by robots. If those are the big and really only instruments of economic wealth generation, then that’s where all the tax will have to be extracted from to support all us humans. And hey, why not, because Corporations are people too now you know :)
More and more people are starting to think this way from Switzerland who is actually voting on it in a referendum soon, to The Expanse Series of books I just finished reading incorporating it, to more mentions in the news. I think we need to all start discussing and implementing it pretty quickly, for all our sakes. There is a wide range of ways to do it so lets try to skip over arguing about if and just move to how. We may be starting to run short on time.
Edit: And after posting this I learned about the vibrant community over at the sub-reddit r/BasicIncome so welcome to anyone there visiting, and anyone else? You should head over there and look at all the discussion. Reddit comments here.