Universal Basic Income Is Not The Answer

What do we do when automation systems and robots make the mundane jobs redundant?

We could teach people new skills and let them find other jobs. This might negatively impact people who are already in these jobs. New skills might work for a small percentage of people.

We could ask some people to assist the robots and manage them. That could keep some people working.

The popular answer seems to be: Universal Basic Income.

Many countries probably can’t afford universal basic income, but let’s look past that for a moment.

The cost of living will probably go down a lot in the next twenty years as things get much more efficient. Producing food, transport, housing can all be done much better by machines. We could tax the profits made from the labour of the bots.

The idea with universal basic income is that governments give everybody some money to cover the costs of food and shelter. If there is no need for boring and mundane jobs people will be free to enjoy their lives and be creative. Write novels, make art, make movies, write music etc.

I’d like to think this is true, but I don’t see it working out this way.

Trouble is, only about 5% of people are creative and ingenuitive… and this 5% will probably not be replaced by the bots in the near future.

What are we going to do with all the people that currently drive cars and trucks for a living? It’s a fairly big problem, I think.

Xbox, endless social media feed scrolling, virtual reality and pain killers.

Not ideal. Any better ideas?

Universal Basic Income is not the answer.

Living in big cities without something to do and keep us busy is going to be a mess… unless you like the idea of a mashup of Wall-E and The Matrix.

Let’s try distributed living. Smaller communities. Small towns. Off-grid, sustainable, solar, clean-tech, long distance fibre optics, aquaponics etc. Something to build and do. Get farming again.

We don’t need cities anymore.

ps. I’d really like to see government taken over by machines. Humans don’t have the best track record with running countries. Give the bots a chance.

UPDATE 26 July 2017:

I think a number of people mis-read this post thinking that I’m against giving (poor) people money to pay for their basic needs. I don’t have a big problem with this.

My point with this post was to explore: what will be our reason to get out of bed in the morning when robots do most of the work? What will fulfil us in a useful and productive way? In short: purpose.

My latest answer is:

  • Off grid living in smaller communities, connected with high speed fibre.
  • Modern farming: aquaponics, aeroponics etc.
  • Educating our children. A society of educational abundance.
  • Educating ourselves. Long term continuous learning.

Previous posts in my Strong Opinions series.

One thought on “Universal Basic Income Is Not The Answer

  1. I don’t think UBI could work with the current corrupt and labour intensive governments. It could maybe work if we get rid of humans in government or at least drastically reduce the number of humans drawing a salary directly from the government or if all government employees only get as much as the UBI amount.

    Corporate taxes will no doubt increase drastically (to fund UBI), reducing the incentive to start a business in the first place.

    I think UBI could probably be implemented as a form of rebate where you either get the UBI as a form of income or you get a discount, to the value of the UBI amount, on your personal taxes, if you have a job and earn an income.

    It’s quite a complex issue and I haven’t read nearly enough about UBI to have a strong opinion about it yet but if we use the current situation in South African as an example, where a minute portion of the population is contributing to tax revenue which in turn is paying for government grants, the model doesn’t seem sustainable so something would need to change.

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