Artificial Intelligence and the Need for UBI

Artificial Intelligence and the Need for Universal Basic Income

Every time a new technology is created some jobs stay and some jobs go. Will this still be the case with A.I.? We briefly analyze the prospects of future job creation and if a universal basic income may be mandatory.

Doomsday Scenarios

Doomsday Scenarios exist for a long time, they came together with faith, in both Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic religions. You have the Mayan End of the World, you have the Final Judgement and the second coming of Christ in Christianity, and so on.

Together with SCI-FI literature, we started to breed a new kind of Doomsday Scenarios, the technological kind. Aside from alien invasions and nuclear annihilation, we also have chilling dystopias like Huxley’s ‘A Brave New World’ or Orwell’s ‘1984’. This type of dystopia is not caused by a major calamity but by the political, technological and social change.

And we have A.I. dystopias, where machines take over the world. Of all these Doomsday scenarios, an A.I. taking control of the world seems more plausible at the moment. But is it a real threat?

In my opinion, with an overlook on the progress in the A.I. technology, it is not the case. We are very far away from developing such A.I.s, but Institutes as M.I.R.I. that focus on studying ways to properly develop Strong A.I.s are most welcome, as they offer progress in the understanding of the field. If you are interested in the subject, I recommend you follow people like Eliezer Yudkowsky on social media; he also has some interesting and fresh political perspectives.

Job Automation

The medium-term real risk we have regarding the development of A.I. is the automation of jobs. Most people in the world have repetitive automatable jobs, I would estimate around 80% of the total jobs are automatable at the moment, or in the near future.

The company developing Siri is currently working on a telephone support bot that can adjust to customers, learn from the experience, and provide solutions for future customers. If you only count people working in telephone support, automatable by a bot like Siri, and drivers, automatable by self-driving cars, you already lose over a billion jobs.

People commonly believe that art is not automatable, and perhaps it is not. We may never have an A.I. that paints like Salvador Dali or sings like David Bowie, it is true. But most artists doing graphic design or sound production make money doing menus for restaurants, flyers for events, or commercials for radio, and these are automatable in the near future.

Oxford published a study on the future of employment on oxfordmartin.ox.ac.uk. On page 28 in the study, we find a graph that shows the calculated probability of automation for several jobs based on different criteria, like social intelligence, creativity, perception, and manipulation.

a study on the future of employment

If you are a trendsetter in your field, may it be science, politics or art, your job is probably safe for another 20-30 years. But if what you do is at least a bit of a routine, then at least part of your job is automatable.

The only thing stopping A.I. from taking our jobs is legislation which is always behind, and the cost of the creation of such A.I.s, for the moment. This will soon change.

The Emergence of New Jobs

After the industrial revolution, new jobs appeared, as machines started to take some of the load. In the Internet age, you have people making money through websites or social media, jobs that did not exist before.

One misconception is that if some jobs disappear, others will appear to take their place. One example is that most people will work in I.T.; Let’s prove this wrong.

Companies are working on several A.I.s that write code. Most people working in I.T., again, do not work on high-end I.T. technology. Most of them program websites and databases or manage servers, and this is automatable for the most part. So not ever your job in I.T. is that safe really.

The difference between a normal machine and an A.I. is that if an A.I. can take your routine job, you cannot move to a new routine job, as the A.I. can handle that as well. A machine in the industrial revolution had only one job and was not adaptable, but the A.I. is. We do not have 7 billion people capable of doing trendsetting activities that are harder to automate. We will be in dire need of an education system that the world neither possesses nor does it have the money to invest in.

Augmented Age

As more devices become connected to the internet, we are nearing an age of machine to machine economy and augmented jobs. More and more people will work together with machines and will be able to create new things from this particular kind of symbiosis. Instead of the machine taking your job, you will work together with the machine to be better at your job.

This paints the future quite differently than the Doomsday scenarios that are around. The machine does the routine part of the job, and some creative part, like special object design, and you will do your human creative part.

This will restructure some of the jobs, but it is very far away from being able to save 7 billion jobs and companies that target profit will prefer to employ A.I. for most jobs, to reduce costs.

B.I. and the Unemployed

A socialist solution is the implementation of the Universal Basic Income, in the beginning at least in some parts of the world like the U.S. or Europe.

If people have no jobs, they will be unable to afford products and services from companies, and those companies will, in turn, go bankrupt. It may be necessary that companies give up part of the profits to establish an income that is guaranteed to every person in the world. Aside from the guaranteed income, people will do different activities to earn extra money. Will this be communism? Sort of. But not the forced by the will of the people kind, it will be a new breed of political construction that is unavoidable because of the technological development. Marx might have been on to something, but the technology was 200 years behind.

Anyways, economists are taking U.B.I. into serious consideration for the past years, but such implementation faces a lot of technical difficulties, from laws to different states of development between countries, but as the globalization grows, this state barrier begins to dissipate in spite of nationalist movement growing in most western countries.

A special blend of misunderstood conservatism is the root cause of these movements, but it seems that technology could not care less about political ideology and politicians have difficult times adjusting to the rapid change in technology and globalization.

Conclusion

As globalization grows and people are more and more connected, I believe that people will begin to cut down on the middleman and perhaps even statesmen, and instead of implementing U.B.I. at the state level, a natural income from the collaboration of man and machine in a connected digital world will be at the foundation of society.

Being an optimist, I believe the impact of A.I. will be one of more autonomy to the individual and his machines, which more and more will be individually owned, and not state or company owned. The machines you possess and your relationship with them will become a business connected in a more decentralized world. However, during this transition, states may be forced to regulate a U.B.I. for some periods of time.

At least, with A.I. and other new technologies being developed, we finally have a new future to meditate upon.

Written by: Tiberiu Jakab
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