Whenever I watch the news, whether it is about Brexit, immigration, racism, terrorism, a presidential election, or the ‘objective’ reporting of an event, I cannot help but feel that everything is relegated to ‘us’ versus ‘them’. I usually get the same feeling when I read comments on social media.
It makes me dream of a different kind of news. A different kind of world. A world where we would have a better chance of solving our problems. A world where we are not stuck in this paradigm of ‘conservatives’ versus ‘liberals’.
I have an exercise I do to try to imagine situations which seem quite improbable to me to help my mind believe in them. It is called the “what if?” exercise. I do this for events I would like to see happen in my personal life, and events I would like to see happen in my wider community, or at a global level. It takes the edge off it, and thus helps the mind let go of normal reality and believe it is possible.
I wanted to share my “what if” exercise I did the other day after too much news consumption.
What if politicians were respectful of their opponents, and engaged in deeper discussions on how to reach the common goal of solving society’s problems?
What if presidential candidates stopped attacking their opponents and focused much more on how their recommended policies would work in practical terms?
What if parliamentarians decided to respectfully agree to disagree when they reached a point where they were unable to reach consensus on how to reach the common goal? And casted a vote without trying to humiliate the other side.
What if leaders were allowed to admit they didn’t know what to do when a new complicated issue appeared? What if they were allowed to say they were gathering information and listening to people before they came up with a recommended solution?
What if our politicians could say that the situation was not black and white, and that a single slogan would not give justice to the problem at hand?
What if the ‘liberals’ and the ‘conservatives’ could have a real conversation about their common interests? The common interest of creating a safe and decent life for all?
What if we stopped blaming other ‘victims’ of the system for the perils of the system and calling them racists, sexists or religious extremists, and instead invited them into a more meaningful discussion about what they are suffering from? Surely people expressing this much hate are suffering in some way.
What if the conversation between pro and anti-immigration policies could start with the acknowledgement that both sides love their country? What if we looked at the deeper cause of the problem: why do so many people want to leave their country in the first place to set up in a foreign land where they have no roots and what can we do to make their home countries more inhabitable?
What if we stopped villainizing and blaming the “other”, and we started asking ourselves what it would be like to “be” the other?
What if we focused our efforts on deeply listening to the other and finding common ground and coming up with solutions to our mutual problems together?
What if we created positions in our governing systems to take up this role of listening and building common ground? And what if we paid them well to do it?
What if the media helped us listen better? To unveil the complicated truth? Instead of rushing to make conclusions about the other and demonizing them? Calling them racists, sexists, classists or extremists?
What if mediators with alternative methods of reconciliation and arbitration were an integral part of our response to war zones and areas of conflict?
What if we believed in the human spirit and started engaging with those that are different to us on that basis?
What if negotiations between states started with a pause of silence to bring every participant in touch with their common humanity before discussing global issues that will affect all of humanity?
What if we focused on our similarities as human beings and how to achieve the deeper more complicated problems behind the simple political slogans?
Image: A close-up within The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo
I am so grateful for the opportunity to have moderated a creative writing workshop around visions for a better world with youth from the Refugee Trauma Initiative based in Greece. It was truly inspiring to hear your ideas and dreams!
“Making the impossible possible for a little while…” was the theme. Brainstorming sessions and guided visualizations led to rich discussions around the world we would like to create and live in. In groups, the participants built up their ideas into descriptions and short stories, and then in the final session we all discussed what we can do as individuals to help create this world they imagined.
Though there were small differences in each vision, the ideas were similar. The worlds described were equal; without racism, discrimination, nor poverty; with access to education and healthcare for everyone, and people living in harmony despite their differences.
Do we have a solution to two of the world’s biggest problems: Inequality and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) replacing human beings at work?
Well, we have part of the solution. It is called Universal Basic Income (UBI), which essentially means giving out a salary to all citizens regardless of circumstances. This salary would cover basic costs.
How would UBI solve the problems of inequality and unemployment caused by A.I.?
For the past 20 years automation has been replacing low skilled labour. Between 1990 and 2007 in the USA alone, 670,000 jobs were lost to robots in the manufacturing industry. That number has risen to four million manufacturing jobs being automated in the last decade. Drivers will be facing the same fate with the rise of the driverless car. More complicated jobs that require higher skill levels are now under threat also as A.I. advances. A widely cited study from 2013 projects that 50% of all jobs in the USA will be automated in the next 20 years.
UBI will provide a safety net for a large number of people that will be made redundant through AI. It will also provide basic costs for people who are facing difficulties making an income for any reason, whether mental health problems, accidents, traumas or are just having a hard time finding a job that is suitable.
A basic income would reduce homelessness, petty crime, and many illnesses caused by stress. This would reduce health care spending, and other public costs, not to mention improve everyone’s quality of life.
In addition, a UBI would provide the opportunity for people to spend more time looking after their children, aging parents, and even neighbours in need. This in turn would address a number of social problems such as a lack of childcare, and elderly care, addictions, and plain loneliness to name a few.
This solution leads to one main question: how would we pay for UBI?
The response is simple, ensuring everyone pays taxes at a global level. That means we remove tax havens from the world which allow the wealthiest companies and individuals to evade taxation, and which forces the rest of the world to make up for it.
Tax havens force countries to offer lower and lower tax rates – or tax incentives as they are called – to attract big business; since these companies can establish headquarters in tax haven countries and still operate anywhere in the world.
If a country or a few try to enforce the same taxation system on these large global corporations that they apply to the small and medium companies, without a global system that supports this principle of fairness, that country would lose out as these corporations will leave and set up where governments give them a tax break.
I am not promoting to tax the rich more than we tax the poor, I am promoting that we tax them at the same rate. Currently the low- and middle-income people are taxed at a higher rate than the wealthiest in the world. Just that small adjustment will bring billions into the world economy.
The Tax Justice Network estimated that wealthy individuals hold approximately $11.5 trillion worth of wealth offshore. That is about one quarter of all global wealth, and equivalent to the entire gross national product of the United States. The entire global aid budget to address poverty in developing countries could be covered two to three times over by the estimated $ 250 billion in taxes lost on just the income that money earns each year. This only represents money lost on wealth individuals hold offshore; it does not include the wealth and lost taxes of corporations.
Tax havens allow big corporations to get away with tax rates of 0.0032%. In 2006 the world’s three biggest banana companies did nearly £400 million worth of business in Britain but paid just £128,000 in tax between them. In stark comparison to individuals that are charged a tax rate of 40% on any income above £45,000 in the UK.
A Universal Basic Income is Not a New Idea
The idea of a basic income for all dates back to the early 16th century. Thomas More‘s Utopia depicts a society in which every person receives a guaranteed income. In the late 18th century, English radicalThomas Spence and American revolutionaryThomas Paine both declared their support for a system that guaranteed all citizens a certain income. Nineteenth-century debate on basic income was limited. However, by the early part of the 20th century discussion on the topic picked up again. Bertrand Russell was one of the main proponents, and he included it as a main component in his new social model.
Has UBI ever been tested before?
Several pilot experiments have been conducted in various forms, however they all have end dates, such as the Finnish experiment that lasted two years, and the on-going pilot in California, which is planned for two years. In the limited cases where they are continuous, they are either restricted by certain factors, like finding a job in a pilot conducted in Canada; or they do not provide enough to cover basic expenses such as the Alaska guaranteed income program, which pays each resident an average of $ 1,200 a year.
These experiments do not give us enough evidence to draw conclusions about the UBI system because none of them adhere to the three main conditions; 1) it is provided to all residents whether they have a job or not, 2) it covers basic expenses, 3) it is continuous. Without these three conditions it would not be possible to judge how people would react. If people knew the income would stop or decrease once they got a job that is a disincentive to work. If people know this income will only be paid for two years they would probably act differently than if they knew it would continue until they died. And of course, if the payment does not cover basic expenses then they do not have the luxury of waiting for better job opportunities or spending time setting up a business which usually takes a while to create profits and may end in failure.
One test that is currently in action that could prove more conclusive is the one being conducted in Kenya by the non-profit GiveDirectly, where a whole community will receive an unconditional income for 10 to 15 years.
What are the Arguments Against UBI?
How would we pay for it?
Why should successful businesses pay unsuccessful people to sit at home?
A UBI will lead to much lower productivity as people won’t have the incentive to go to work if they are receiving a free income.
Let’s look at these arguments one by one.
How would we pay for it?
This argument has already been tackled above. However, it is worth noting that there are other solutions that have been suggested. American presidential candidate, Andrew Lang, is proposing a UBI to be paid for through an increased value added tax (VAT). I would consider this a transitionary solution as it would only provide a portion of the funding required, however, it would be much easier to enforce than eliminating tax havens at a global level.
Why Should Successful Businesses Pay for People to Sit at Home and Do Nothing?
I agree hardworking successful people should not have to pay for people to sit at home. However, that is a deceiving way of putting it. Allow me to elaborate.
Ultimately companies need to operate where the market is. That means substantial population size and purchasing power. Without all the infrastructure available in a country, companies, whether small or huge, could not operate. That includes the transportation system, the technology, the education system, the healthcare system…etc.
If the population in these countries were sick or ill-educated they would not be able to perform the required jobs. They would not be able to afford the products. If the logistics and transportation were not running efficiently, companies would not be able to run efficient and reliable operations. If the urban planning was a mess, or the utility system was not effective, again running a business would be extremely costly. One just needs to look at countries where these systems are failing to see how difficult it is to run a business there successfully. Not many people are rushing to invest in Somalia.
All these well-functioning systems are using hard earned taxpayer money from all citizens to maintain. Thus, it only makes sense that those that benefit from these systems and make enormous amounts of profit should pay back into it. At present people that are employed or are running a small to medium enterprise are the ones footed with the bill to support this system while those benefitting the most pay a proportionately much lower share.
By paying taxes companies are not paying people to sit at home even if a UBI system is implemented. They are paying for the infrastructure.
Will UBI Lead to A Lazy Population That Does Not Want to Contribute to Society?
There is an assumption here. That is people who don’t need to work for a living will sit around doing nothing productive all day. This is an assumption I disagree with. Granted some people in this position do nothing, but not the majority.
Having an income that satisfies our basic needs does just that, it satisfies our basic needs. Once a human being has reached that level of satisfaction s/he starts looking to satisfy the next level of needs, namely a need to achieve, to be accepted in society and to gain recognition. Humans look for belonging to something bigger than themselves, humans look for meaning in life.
Granted there are those who chose to ignore these needs. There are those who would rather remain in their comfort zones and let their talents go to waste. But we have those people in our society today anyway. You may argue that these people at least have to work now, they would not if they had a basic income coming in.
Let’s consider the implication of this.
If these people are so uninterested in their work and hate it so much that they would jump at the opportunity to quit, even if that means an income that just covers their basic needs, then as a society are we not better off with someone else that has more passion and commitment doing the job? Or with A.I. taking over if no humans want to do it? It’s better for society to allow people to live at subsistence level for free than forcing them to perform jobs they hate. Less stress, less healthcare costs, less use of transportation, less negative energy in the workplace.
UBI could actually increase productivity
A guaranteed minimum income would give people bargaining power in the market. If a company wants to hire people to do a job they are going to have to provide incentives. Even without a UBI system, people do not only work for money. They want a good working environment, the opportunity to learn, to grow, and to be heard. This will create better quality companies.
How Would this Work in Economically Poor Countries?
UBI is much more difficult to implement in poor countries as they don’t have the functioning economy to support the costs. The pilot in Kenya mentioned above is funded by an international foundation, not the government.
If we would like to see a more equitable world, not just a few equitable countries, and avoid the problems arising from a world where nearly half the world’s population live in poverty, then we need to find a way to help these economies support themselves so they too can implement an UBI system.
This has strong implications on how to structure aid money. However, that is another topic, to be addressed in another article.
Giving money out for free may seem like an outrageous economic setup if we compare it to our current economic paradigm. However, if we look at history, economic systems change over the ages as technology advances, and as societies change to rectify inequalities. We transferred from a barter system to feudalism to capitalism. If we could go back in time and ask someone living in the 17th century whether they believed it would be possible to be born into a peasant’s family and have the opportunity to become a lord, i.e. a land-owner, they would most probably have said no. We would probably receive the same response from a person inhabiting the 19th century during the industrial revolution, if we were to ask would it be possible to work a 40 hour week in a clean factory with safety standards, health insurance and a lunch break.
Time is running out. We need to adjust our economy to the new era of technology. If we don’t the system will change anyway, it always does. Change is inevitable. It will just be more disruptive in nature if we don’t cooperate.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this article. Please feel free to leave a comment below.
 Acemoglu and Restrepo, Robots and Jobs: Evidence from US Labour Markets, the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER), Working Paper No. 23285, March 2017.
 Talk by Andre Lang, 2019 US Presidential elections.
 Frey and Osborne, The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to computerization? Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford, September 2013.
 Shaxson, Nicholas, Treasure Island – Tax Havens and the Men that Stole the World. Great Britain: Vintage – Penguin Random House, 2016 (original edition 2012).
What will happen to our jobs with the advance of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.)? It could be to our advantage; we could have robots doing all the work we humans find boring, and free more of our time to focus on the more creative and satisfying work. I talk about how beneficial it could be in a previous article. However, it could turn into a nightmare (for a large portion of society) if we don’t plan and organise for this new technological revolution.
Technological advancement is not a new phenomenon
First of all, this is not a new phenomenon. The human race has gone through technological revolutions before, the most drastic being the industrial revolution. Jobs were destroyed, and many others created. For example, the blacksmith and many other craftspeople were replaced by factory workers. At a later stage, rail road workers lost their jobs with the invention of the automobile; however, many more jobs were created, such as car mechanics and car manufacturers. In this new A.I. era, new jobs will be and are being created to off-set the lost jobs, just as in the past. To name a few examples, remote controlled vehicle controllers, personalised health care specialists, big data analysts, and online chaperones to assist small businesses manage online risks. Jobs we cannot even predict will come to be/evolve, the same way we could not predict the job of a software engineer during the industrial revolution. In addition, humans will be preferred for jobs that require creativity and human empathy, such as healthcare and entertainment.
There are significant benefits to technological advances
It is also important to note that the industrial revolution has led to a much more comfortable life for millions of people. It is now the norm, at least in the developed world, to have running water and electricity in our homes. Transportation is smooth and comfortable.
So why should we be worried about this new technological era?
It took over a century of pain for most of the world to start reaping the benefits of the industrial revolution, and a lot of wars. The working class in the first industrialising countries, the current developed world, were uprooted from their rural life and forced to work in factories under appalling working conditions. It was even more difficult for the rest of the world, which was mostly colonised by the first industrial countries.
In addition, there have been negative consequences that are still impacting us till the present day. Despite the improved accessibility to modern day comforts, many people are not benefiting from it.
The gap between the rich and poor is at the highest it has ever been in history. One per cent of the world’s population owns more than 50% of the world’s wealth, while almost two thirds of the adult population (64%) have to survive on 1.9% of the global wealth. It is true that poor people in modern times are not suffering as much as they were during the era of the industrial revolution, but that is a very low bar to compare to/measure against. Industrial laborers at that time were working 14 hours a day, 6 days a week, in terrible working conditions, for very low pay.
Link between technological advance and inequality
What is the link between growing inequality and advancements in technology? Even though technological progress can raise labour productivity, i.e. help people produce more, it can also, at some point in the advancement process, make it easier for corporations to substitute people for machines. This allows for greater concentration of income and wealth.
Advancements in A.I. could lead to the same outcome, albeit more amplified, if we do not regulate it. If corporations, which control the vast majority of wealth and resources in the world, start replacing people with robots, with no system in place to regulate this, we will end up with even more inequality and exclusion. Many workers and employees will become redundant as their skills will no longer be needed. In addition, a huge portion of the new generation will struggle even more than the present one to secure paid work, due to an education system that does not prepare them for higher skilled jobs. This second scenario will be more prevalent in the developing world.
The low skilled are already facing huge difficulties surviving on their incomes. Their skills are not worth very much in the market. What will happen to these people when their skills are worth even less because it is cheaper to use A.I.?
Can we afford to have another century of pain before most of the world start benefiting from this amazing technology? Will that be tolerated by the losers? Especially in a world where we are much more interconnected than the past? Can we afford more violence, more revolutions, more ‘illegal’ immigration, more terrorism?
What can we do to avoid and revert this inequality?
We need to put systems in place to ensure people are not excluded and also to ensure that everyone benefits in this new era, not just a select few. So what kind of systems do we need?
First, we need to create education systems that prepare the new generation for this new fast-changing economy through teaching them ‘how to learn’. We also need our education systems to address the re-skilling needs of the current labour force through continuous adult education, if we are to avoid excluding a large portion of the population from contributing to society. At present, the labour force that is made redundant is largely forced into idleness and poverty. Educating the new generation and re-skilling people to perform new jobs is no easy task, nor is it cheap.
The other required system is a bit trickier. We need a system that will factor in the shorter amount of time we will need to get the work done while allowing everyone to benefit. If A.I. can help us do our jobs faster, then we need to allow for substantially shorter working hours and time off. The alternative would be to hire fewer people to do the same work. Effectively that would mean making some people redundant, and making those that still have jobs work as long as they do now. Or alternatively, maintain the same workforce at the same level of effort and create unnecessary jobs.
What does history tell us about how we deal with technology and work?
Strangely enough history shows us that the second path has been the pattern humanity has taken so far as we progress technologically – creating unnecessary jobs. That is of course after laying off people in the short term once machines can do their jobs.
In the late eighteenth century, Benjamin Franklin predicted we would soon work a 4-hour week. The nineteenth century economist Peter Kropotkin deducted that we should be able to cover all our needs by working 4-5 hours a day, which could be further reduced by technological innovations. Bernard Shaw predicted we would work a 2-hour day by 2000. In 1956, Richard Nixon predicated a 4-hour work week in the near future. In 1965, a US Senate subcommittee predicted a 22-hour work week by 1985, and a 14- hour week by 2000. In the 1960s, Paul and Percival Goodman estimated that just 5% of the work being done would satisfy our food, clothing and shelter needs.
However, as we can all see, that did not happen. We are now working longer hours than the two generations before us. Technology was supposed to liberate us from the daily drudgery, but in effect/fact we are working longer hours than the two generations before us and rarely have the opportunity to switch off. In 2002, fewer than 10% of employees checked their work email outside of office hours. Today, with the help of tablets and smartphones, it is 50%, often before we get out of bed. In 2005 the UK government admitted a sharp increase in excessive working hours. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) research found that one in six employees now work more than sixty hours a week. A far cry from the predictions made by the generations before us.
This is despite the fact that many studies demonstrate that working excessive hours is counterproductive. After a certain number of working hours, the level of productivity drops. Moreover, the expected working hours of modern life ‘work ethic’ is causing high levels of stress that the human body is unable to deal with, and thus it is making us sick and sometimes even kills us.
What have we got to show for all this work?
Are we all living in lavish luxury? Have we eliminated poverty from the planet? Are we providing food and healthcare for everyone? Far from it. Nearly half of the world’s population – more than 3 billion people – live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty – less than $1.25 a day, and 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
So where is all our effort going if we are working harder than the two generations before us? It seems we must be wasting our time since we do not have much to show for it, or at least nothing very useful to show. The avant garde visionary thinker, Buckminister Fuller, commented on this phenomenon in 1981, claiming that 70% of US jobs were unnecessary, such as inspectors of inspectors, people making instruments for inspectors of inspectors, re-underwriters of insurance reinsurers, obnoxious promoters….etc.
Fuller’s insight into this strange phenomenon hits upon the root cause for this. As a human race we have a false idea that “everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist”.
So now what?
How do we avoid following the same pattern of the past that has led us to excessive inequality, sickness and death?
A paradigm shift in our belief system needs to happen in order to implement the two systems mentioned above regarding the way we organise education and work at a global level. A paradigm shift in the values that underpin our economic system needs to take place. We need to re-think and redefine what we mean by “work ethic”. We need to take a deep questioning look at our need to justify our existence through excessive work, even when this work is not needed. We need to take a hard look at how we decide who is deserving of support from society. And most importantly we need to think deeply about how we distribute our resources.
This is a topic that creates a lot of controversy and stirs a lot of feelings, mainly fear. Why are we so afraid of robots taking over our jobs? The obvious reason and argument against new technology is what will we do as human beings if artificial intelligence or robots become capable of doing our work?! And how will we make an income? I see the logic and I can sense the fear behind it. I understand it. However, I think this argument is one sided. It does not capture the amazing possibilities that a world with robots can provide for us.
What kind of jobs are robots going to take over
First of all, let’s think about what jobs machines and robots are going to take over. Do we think they are going to take over the jobs children dream of doing when they grow up? Astronauts, musicians, doctors, nurses, and singers? Do we think they are going to take over the jobs that grownups day dream of doing when they have saved up enough money to leave their day job or have paid off their mortgage? Writing about the fantasy world that he has dreamed up in his mind while sitting at his desk in the office. Starting her own business that will solve one of the world problems. Traveling around the world making films that portray the reality she wants to show the world. Going back to school so he can come up with a new technology that will give people back their legs or arms that were amputated. Creating the best menu the world has ever seen.
I don’t know what you think, but I don’t believe machines and robots are going to take over these kinds of jobs. They will definitely help us, but not take them over. And these are the jobs that people want to do. These are the jobs that more and more people will be able to do if we free up their time, if we free up their minds to focus on their dreams.
Currently, most people are focused on making a living not a life. They are focused on their daily jobs which usually entail long hours energy draining tasks. Let’s think about the jobs that people don’t want to do. Have you ever asked a child what she wants to do when she grows up and got the response “public toilet cleaner”! or cleaning other people’s houses, or factory worker that spends long days on an assembly line, or a civil servant that reviews papers all day long to check all the forms are filled out with people’s data?
Again, I don’t know about you, but I have never received these responses from children nor have I heard of anyone else that has received these responses. I will take it a step further. I think there are jobs that we do like doing that have a lot of tasks attached to them that we don’t want to do. Why don’t we want to do them? Because they are boring and very time consuming and take away from the time we could be spending on coming up with creative solutions.
A real life example
Let me give you an example from my life. I design and manage projects. I used to do this full time. The design part is very interesting and mentally stimulating. This part of my job keeps me motivated. However, there are big parts of my job that I don’t like doing. Mainly boring work that is made even more boring and time consuming by a very user-unfriendly system that I have to use to record everything in multiple forms. And when those parts start to constitute the majority of my work I feel drained. I start to lose my motivation. I stop putting forth creative ideas to make my projects better, because I either don’t have them anymore or I just can’t take on any more work. The worst consequence for me is that I start to feel completely detached from the people I am supposed to be helping.
This is how I think a robot will help me and others that have similar jobs. A robot or a machine could be responsible for the clerical tasks. A robot could take data that I have already recorded in one place and record it in different formats or systems. That would free up my time to work on the more interesting part – the design and implementation of the project, and interaction with people – or to take time off!
Do people really want to do boring work?
You might say some people actually like doing clerical work. They like it because its mentally non-demanding and thus soothing. While some people want to do this work, so they can get a foot in the organisation and learn and make their way up.
True. I agree with that argument. However, I still think we would be better off if this was a choice. Let me explain by looking at both types of people. First the ones that like clerical work because its soothing. These people normally take on jobs that are not very mentally demanding because they want to get out of the house, meet people, belong to an organisation, and of course make an income. These people do not want to do this kind of work in huge quantities. They are human beings, they may have a higher tolerance than others for monotonous tasks, but I don’t believe they want to do very much of it. Only passion driven people want to do a lot of work.
Let’s look at the second type of person. This person is only performing a task as an entry point to move up the ladder. What if we gave people the opportunity to come into our organisations with a slightly more motivating task to prove themselves? Would that not be a win-win situation?
This is why I think it would be amazing if we could get robots to do these tasks. wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to ask real people to do them? If we did not organize ourselves as a society whereby some people, actually most people, have to work at jobs that are killing their soul? You may think that the expression “killing their soul” is an exaggeration, but I believe that is what these kinds of jobs do to people that are forced to perform them years on end because they have no other option if they are to earn an income.
What do we do with people that are not skilled?
I hear you say, what if these people don’t have the brains to do anything else? What if these mind-numbing jobs are the only contribution they could possibly give society?
I have two things to say on that. First, I don’t believe this kind of work would be the only function any human being would have to offer society. I believe everyone has talents, we are just not very good as a society at helping people identify them and cultivating them. Second, let’s suppose that I am wrong, and some people are completely lacking in talent and abilities. My question to you is this: is this the way we want to treat them as a global community? Punish them because they have fewer abilities and talents?
In the past, before we had our modern technology, I can see how the answer would be yes. Not out of spite or evilness, but out of necessity. As I mentioned, we would not be able to live our comfortable lives if no one was cleaning our streets, if no one was at the assembly lines day in day out manufacturing our cars, clothes, TVs, phones…. the list is endless. But now we have the technology, or at least we are getting there.
For the first time in history we have a way out of subjecting people to slavery. Instead of responding with celebration, we are responding with terror! We are scared a machine will take away these jobs no one wants to do.
What about the elephant in the room – income!
Now let’s face the elephant in the room. Income. Money. If a robot can do my job, what am I going to do? I won’t have a job. No one will hire me. The companies we work for will lay off most of their employees and buy robots to do the work. And all those employees and workers will be sitting at home with no income to live. They may even lose their homes if they are renting or still paying mortgage. Disaster.
If this is the way we respond as a society then yes that is a scary scenario. But does it have to be like that? Can’t we think of a better way to respond so we can actualize the amazing possibilities?
Would it be possible to perhaps have workers and employees work less time?
Would it be possible as a society to help the people that lose their jobs to robots to learn new skills?
Would it be possible that we as a society support those people while they learn new skills and figure out what to do, even if that takes years?
If we are able to produce the same amount of goods with much less manpower, are we not richer as a society? Doesn’t that mean we have the same amount of goods, clothes, cars, trains, food, electronics…etc with fewer people working? In which case, why add insult to injury by punishing those that have lost their jobs?
Alternative vision for the future
Maybe we should think more seriously about sending cheques out in the post to everyone to cover basic expenses.
The economists and the financiers might think this sounds crazy. Paying people that are sitting at home doing nothing?! Paying people that are not contributing to our production?! Our economy will collapse! But let’s look at the picture holistically. What are the benefits? Less petty crime by people that are hungry. Less costly health care for stress, depression and alcoholism. Less bureaucracy to figure out who to pay and who not to. I would even dare say less terrorism. Combating these problems costs money. LOADS of money. And then there are the intangibles. Peaceful society. Happy society. Time for creativity.
I believe in the human spirit. I believe if a person is given a chance, they normally make something out of it. I don’t think the majority of us want to sit at home and receive handouts endlessly. Once our basic needs of food and shelter are met, we start looking to fulfill our deeper desires as humans, our desire to achieve, our desire for knowledge, our desire for recognition, our desire to contribute and belong to a community.
Imagine a world where everyone has the chance to fulfill these desires. Don’t you think dear reader that it would be a better world for all of us?