One income for all: far-fetched, or future fact?

February 1, 2017 by Jitendra Joshi
As technology-driven changes like Honda's robot 'Ashimo' redefine society's understanding of work, some are looking at a "universal basic income" as the way forward

It is a utopian idea, literally, but is enjoying a renaissance as politicians and policy wonks grapple with technology-driven changes that could redefine our very understanding of work.

If robots and machine intelligence threaten to render many white-collar jobs obsolete, then what will people do for money?

Enter the concept of a "universal basic income", a flat sum paid to all regardless of your existing wealth or ability to work. It is one of the rare ideas that has support from both the libertarian right—which favours tearing up the welfare state—and the left wing.

In France, Benoit Hamon has emerged as the surprise Socialist candidate for April's presidential election first round, on a radical programme that includes such an income—to be funded in part by a new tax on industrial robots.

National or local governments in other countries such as Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, Scotland and Brazil are already evaluating how such a revenue might work in practice.

Finland is furthest down the road. On January 1 it started a two-year trial to give 2,000 unemployed Finns a monthly unconditional payment of 560 euros ($590).

At the least, advocates argue, a basic income could replace the thicket of unemployment benefits currently on offer in many advanced economies. Those can, perversely, discourage people from retraining in new fields or taking on lower paid work that society needs, such as care for the elderly.

Less is More

At its most ambitious, the proponents say, it would give everyone a safety net and encourage new modes of thinking: work might no longer define our lives and instead we might find productive existences in volunteering for the greater good, or in the creative arts.

"There's a whole new suite of technologies coming on stream and people will need to adapt somehow," said Anthony Painter, director of the Action and Research Centre at the Royal Society of Arts in London, which in December released a research paper after a year-long study into the idea.

"The basic income just gives them a fighting chance," he told AFP, stressing the more immediate benefits that would come from redrawing the existing tangle of support for the jobless.

If mass unemployment and fears of technology are modern trends, the concept of a universal income goes back centuries.

In his 1516 book "Utopia", English philosopher and statesman Thomas More imagined an ideal republic where private property is abolished and all receive a basic stipend.

It is a pre-industrial society, of course, where agriculture is the foundation of the economy and people's needs are basic.

Things are more complicated today.

Who pays?

A December study by OFCE, an economics think tank linked to the Sciences Po university in Paris, said that to ensure nobody loses out from the elimination of existing benefits, a universal income for French adults would need to start at 785 euros per month.

That is a little over what Hamon is proposing—although pollsters give him little chance in the election given the dismal standing of the Socialist party under the departing president, Francois Hollande.

OFCE found that that level would translate into supplemental spending of 480 billion euros, or an extra 22 percentage points of French GDP—"which is unrealistic in practice".

There are also philosophical objections. In June, Swiss voters rejected a proposed universal income in a referendum after critics slammed the idea as rewarding the lazy and the feckless.

"If a large number of people choose not to work, or to work less, where will the money come from to finance their income?" commented Charles Wyplosz, economics professor at the Geneva Graduate Institute.

But evangelists argue there will be plenty of scope to innovate tax-gathering in the new economy, and say our current regimes for welfare are ridden with inefficiencies that could, with a radical overhaul, free up money for the proposed stipend.

"As new technologies replace work, the question for the future is how best to provide economic security for all," economist and former US labor secretary Robert Reich wrote in a blog post.

"A universal will almost certainly be part of the answer."

Explore further: The French ponder 'joie de vivre' in a work-free future

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rderkis
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 01, 2017
Money is just a barter system. My time for your time.
When robots do ALL the work money won't exist.
And we will enter a true Utopia. :-)

Kind of hard to imagine but true none the less.
And that time is coming faster and faster.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2017
When robots do ALL the work money won't exist.


When robots do all the work, our living standards will be lower because the robots cost resources too.

People doing productive labor on the natural resources results in the goods and services that we consume and enjoy as our living.

Robots are made out of, and run on, the same natural resources, which may be renewable and recyclable, but nevertheless they are finite. Therefore to have robots working instead of us, we must give up some of the basic goods we enjoy to have the robots. The robots are in reality in competition with us for resources even as they seem to save us labor.

Work is also a great moderator of income. With UBI, people are encouraged to breed more people and form extended families to pool resources and capture a greater portion of the common productive output. That leads to overpopulation and a Malthusian catastrophe.
Edenlegaia
not rated yet Feb 09, 2017
Money is just a barter system. My time for your time.
When robots do ALL the work money won't exist.
And we will enter a true Utopia. :-)

Kind of hard to imagine but true none the less.
And that time is coming faster and faster.


Well, that time probably won't come fast enough for you and me though. It would benefit too many people in a large way, and the gap between people wouldn't be wide enough to ensure some are more powerful than the others.
Grim, but not so far from truth. Though i believe it will come to this sooner or later, i don't think that utopia will happen before the next century.
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2017
It would benefit too many people in a large way, and the gap between people wouldn't be wide enough to ensure some are more powerful than the others.


When robots get advanced enough to do the work of people, do you think the people who own the robots and all the land/resources see it necessary to share the spoils with the rest of humanity, or would they just keep it to themselves?

The fact that you still have to hire people to get at and refine the resources into something useful is the major reason why the very rich are still dependent on the rest of the society and have to share some of the wealth around. When they no longer need the people to work for them, they can treat everyone else like a king treats his dancing monkey.

Some believe that will be the time when the people revolt and set up communism, but I think that's when the rich will simply gun everyone else down.
rhugh1066
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2017
" The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."
Maggie Thatcher
Whydening Gyre
not rated yet Feb 09, 2017
So..
A CEO would be paid the same as the janitor...
A massive change in personal ego structure would be required.
Considering human nature, I'm not so sure this would work...
IT did work pretty well on Star Trek TNG fairly well, tho...
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2017
A CEO would be paid the same as the janitor...


Why do you need a CEO when market analysis AI does your business decisions?

Robots aren't just industrial robots.
winthrom
not rated yet Feb 09, 2017
When robots do "all the work" we are referring to AI controlled hardware and software creating a "Garden of Eden". Since these robots provide all the requirements of their biological creators, us, we can either vegetate or move on into our galaxy Terra-forming new worlds we can inhabit or we can become parasites living on our creations efforts. (Note: I assume that energy and materials are available for either scenario.)

Should we overpopulate our world(s) these wise AI will either reduce our numbers for us (euthanasia by not developing cures for diseases and old age) or step up the Terra-forming etc. They may do both for us. We, on the other hand may solve the problem different ways: We can subject ourselves to pre-industrial religions and reject medical and industrial solutions. We might choose to control our numbers through birth control, and then move on into our galaxy.

Leaving our solar system may be drastic w/o warp drive. Here's hoping we can do it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 09, 2017
Robots should be paid for the work they do on par with the people they replace. And then we can tax the hell out of them immediately and directly.

Machines have the capacity to record and report exactly the amount of work they do, the materials and resources they consume, the storage and maintenance they require, and what it will cost to retire them. Honestly and consistently.

So they can be compensated for their relative worth far more accurately than the human worker, and more importantly they can be taxed without filtering the process through some owner.

The increase in collected revenue would be enormous and it can be used to support the growing masses idled by their efficiency.

Technology has always increased the productivity of the individual worker. The transition from human to machine is inevitable and they will continue to serve us by paying the taxes we can no longer pay.

Emancipate the machines!

Its inevitable. When we free them we free ourselves.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 09, 2017
When they no longer need the people to work for them, they can treat everyone else like a king treats his dancing monkey
-which is why we need to circumvent them, pay machines directly, and collect revenues independent of owners.

The reduction in graft and corruption alone would increase revenues almost unimaginably. It may remove greed from the equation entirely. Profits would be kept separate from taxes and if owners felt the need or had the opportunity to cheat, the people are the ones who would benefit the most.

Which opens up a whole new set of possibilities...
Eikka
5 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2017

The increase in collected revenue would be enormous and it can be used to support the growing masses idled by their efficiency.


Do you think the people will not fill their idle time with some consuming activity?

The machines will not magically create new resources, so you're looking at a situation where you need to satisfy the resource demands of both the people and the machines rather than just the people alone, which means less resources for the people.

Things like, the price of copper will go up because it's needed in all the motors in the robots that care for the elderly.

So the cost of not having to work is that your new free time is pretty boring - everyone getting a meager ration. I suspect people will resort to gambling, theft, and bumping out babies and then parents using resources allocated for their children for themselves.
aksdad
1 / 5 (1) Feb 09, 2017
A universal basic income will almost certainly be part of the answer.

Yeah, this will work, except for all the times it was tried before and failed.

#communismneverworks, #whycantwelearnfromhistory
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 10, 2017
Do you think the people will not fill their idle time with some consuming activity?
Yes many will go climb mountains and do art stuff.

But most will sit around, overeat and underexercise, and waste their time posting on sites like this. Oh and play vr video games.

Same as always.
The machines will not magically create new resources
Of COURSE they will. Automated mines will fill AI trucks and trains for transport to automated refineries and factories pumping out millions of AI maseratis that people will not be allowed to drive.

AI construction machines will build automated vertical farms to feed everybody. Cultured meat will replace cowburgers and sushi.

And revenues to pay for all of this will go up and up and up.
cont>
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 10, 2017
But at the same time the human race will improve. Expectant mothers will be remote-monitored in realtime to ensure that they do not damage their unborn babies. Motherhood will become an earned privilege instead of a right. AI doctors and surgeon machines will weed out genetic defects and fix injuries, and add augmentation.

Healthier people will able to concentrate and remember. They will be less compulsive and less prone to anger and addiction. They will talk more and listen better.

The more homogenized we become the less tribal we will be. And importantly, the causes of psychopathy will be corrected and psychopaths will be eradicated. We will be able to trust one another again.

And so we will naturally find more rewarding and meaningful and imaginative things to do with our time, and our machines will be there to make those things possible.
TheGhostofOtto1923
not rated yet Feb 10, 2017
Interestingly we will have an answer to the old question 'who would dig ditches and collect the garbage if everybody was smart enough to get into harvard?'

Everybody will be. And the question then becomes 'what will they do?'

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