Why people should get paid to let AI do their jobs for them


The idea of ​​a universal minimum / basic income (UBI) is not new or nearly as radical as those who are both for and against it would have you believe. Dozens of cities around the world are currently running or have executed UBI test programs. And the results are generally positive.

Simply put: the results for people who receive a UBI are generally demonstrably better than those in similar financial and economic situations who do not.

But a significant number of people ranging from laymen to economics experts believe that paying people for what they consider “not working” is a bad idea.

The solution, of course, is artificial intelligence. What if we ditch the idea of ​​a UBI and instead allow AI to do all the work while we just cash the paychecks?

What? It is not a new or radical idea either. Automation of the workplace is already happening in most areas of employment. Whether you are in danger of being moved by automation, have become a cyborg by adding machine learning solutions to your normal work routine, or are simply saving 30 seconds on email by clicking on them. Google’s automated response suggestions, you probably use AI to do your day-to-day work. Even if you don’t, the writing is on the wall.

In the near future, it will be more common for general industries to research automated solutions before creating employment opportunities for humans.

Background: The conversation on UBI used to be entirely about caring for the most vulnerable segments of society. Especially in the aftermath of COVID-19 where unemployment and housing are ravaging even previously stable economic areas.

But we won’t know the full extent of the pandemic’s effects until it is completely over. Whether that happens in a few months or we have years to go, the end result will almost certainly involve massive global industrial and trade change.

Some of those jobs that were put on hold when the world shut down will disappear altogether, others may change in ways we cannot predict.

A few years ago, most of us could not have imagined such a large part of the workforce pivoting to work from home. Now, we’ve given thousands of businesses the opportunity to think about what a workplace without people could look like. It is not strange to imagine a paradigm shift towards jobless businesses that maximize profits by limiting overheads and reducing human costs.


The current paradigm is simple: you work, you earn money, you pay taxes, those taxes split up to do things for everyone… including people who don’t work or pay taxes. Some people think it’s good because of the greatest good, the others have the impression that they shouldn’t have to work so others don’t have to.

It might be easier to just ditch the idea of ​​a UBI and instead give us all AI job avatars, so we don’t have work but still collect a regular paycheck. After all, that’s exactly what the rich do, but instead of creating an AI that does something useful, they just accumulate wealth instead.

The average roundabout interest on a million dollars in a bank account is typically around $ 30,000 per year. The US government sets the minimum wage at much less than that. Which means, according to Uncle Sam, you should be able to live on less than the interest of a seven-figure trust fund.

Yet our government, society and capitalist culture all seem to agree that it is wrong to be paid to do nothing unless you are rich. And that’s probably a good thing. Because the government really needs this money so that it accumulates in the banks, and the banks can borrow it without asking (that’s how the interest gets there).

But the undeniable fact of the matter is that someone who earns minimum wage and contributes directly to the workforce earns less than someone who cashes a million dollars in trust and just doesn’t want to. to work.

A non-political opinion on this would be this: if it’s okay for us to let our accumulated wealth generate income for us, it should be universally okay for us to design AI systems that do our job for us.

Unfortunately, we all know that’s not the case. In 2016, a Redditor (who has since deleted his post and account, so we won’t name them here) posted his story that he was fired from a tech job after six years without doing any work. The smart (or lazy, depending on your point of view) employee, depending on the post, devised a program to automate his coding tasks and simply got to work all day for six years until he get caught.

In the real world: This example could confirm everyone’s fears that society will collapse if we just give people money and take away their will to work, grow and be successful. But we’re only assuming that anyone who automates their work will want to take a permanent vacation.

The fear that someone who doesn’t merit he’ll get something free that we’ve worked so hard for is often a powerful motivator against altruistic ideas like UBI.

But there is no system that will only take care of those who need it while remaining immune to human corruption or laziness.

The reality is that we know without a shadow of a doubt that an UBI could save lives. There are people who don’t eat today and who otherwise would if they had the money.

But guaranteed income from a government run by politicians owned by corporate lobbyists, as is the case in the United States and other capitalist regimes, may not be the best way to go. help We The People, whether you support UBI or not.

Instead, take the aforementioned Redditor which has automated its work as an example. What if, instead of punishing that person by firing them, we used them as a prototype for a “job avatar”?

How it would work: Let’s stick with the United States for an example, as it’s a country mired in the kind of partisanship that keeps UBI from being seriously discussed. Based on what conservatives and liberals have said about the UBI, the one thing we all agree on is that US citizens who are not incarcerated or otherwise deprived of all citizenship rights should have the right to work.

So instead of giving citizens a UBI, the government could give humans the explicit right to employment. With the right to employment, we could legislate huge tax benefits for companies that employ human beings. And just get rid of the tax breaks for those who don’t.

Companies that automate existing human positions, or have automation beyond a certain threshold, would not be eligible for tax breaks unless they pay humans “avatar of automation” salaries in order to compensate for the displacement of workers.

That way, companies like Amazon that manage to avoid paying taxes should still be contributing to society the same way a mom and pop pizza place does when it is forced to pay its full share.

If this pizzeria wants to fire its cook in favor of a robotic oven, it will have to pay this human a continuous salary if he wants to participate in the American tax credit system. For new businesses, let’s say an automated pizza kitchen opens on the same block as our mom and our man-run shop, it will also have to pay human wages, if its owners want tax breaks, even s ‘they do not use any. Real people.

And, if it were the same for Amazon, we could probably solve poverty in the United States faster than you can say “two-day shipping.”

It’s not a perfect plan, but neither is UBI. And the status quo is about as anti-human as it gets. There are at least 18.6 million people in the United States who could live above the poverty line on annual interest from their bank accounts alone, but more than 40 million people in the United States currently live in the United States. poverty.

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Published March 10, 2021 – 19:28 UTC


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