A Strategic Opening for a Basic Income Guarantee in the Global Crisis Being Created by AI, Robots, Desktop Manufacturing and BioMedicine
Robotics and artificial intelligence are beginning to fundamentally change the relative profitability and productivity of investments in capital versus human labor, creating technological unemployment at all levels of the workforce, from the North to the developing world. As robotics and expert systems become cheaper and more capable the percentage of the population that can find employment will also fall, stressing economies already trying to curtail "entitlements" and adopt austerity. Two additional technology-driven trends will exacerbate the structural unemployment crisis in the coming decades, desktop manufacturing and anti-aging medicine. Desktop manufacturing threatens to disintermediate the half of all workers involved in translating ideas into products in the hands of consumers, while anti-aging therapies will increase the old age dependency ratio of retirees to tax-paying workers. Policies that are being proposed to protect or create employment will have only a temporary moderating effect on job loss. Over time these policies, which will impose raise costs, lower the quality of goods and services, and lower competitiveness, will become fiscally impossible and lose political support. In order to enjoy the benefits of technological innovation and longer, healthier lives we will need to combine policies that control the pace of replacing paid human labor with a universal basic income guarantee (BIG) provided through taxation and the public ownership of wealth. The intensifying debate over the reform of "entitlements" will be the strategic opening for a campaign for BIG to replace disability and unemployment insurance, Social Security, and other elements of the welfare state.
Copyright (c) 2021 James Hughes
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