Unconditional Basic Income as an Answer to Automation

First of all, some background:

Here is an excellent video on automation and the future that I have linked before and which may be referenced in this conversation:

Here is a piece linked by @fretburner in this thread (http://www.sitepoint.com/community/t/the-internet-of-things-totally-awesome-or-a-security-nightmare) that discusses the automation of trucks:

Finally the topic at hand

Unconditional Basic Income, as a potential solution to the problems that come hand in hand with the amazing benefits of our technological strides, here is a brief informational page on Basic Income (Disclaimer: This is mine. If you notice any errors, PM me or reply here and I’d much appreciate it, as it’s new and quickly done :slight_smile: ) http://whatisbasicincome.org. Skim through it. There are resources linked at the bottom, including Wikipedia, that video, an article, and the subreddit and Twitter discussions on the subject.

Now for discussion - what do you guys think of a Basic Income as a (national or regional-level) solution to this problem? Or do you disagree that there is a problem at all?

To hopefully forestall some of the typical arguments/attacks: I’m not opposed to technology. I’m a web developer. I love automation, I love the idea of safer self driving cars, I love the idea of automated factories, etc. What I think, though, is that we should be realistically prepared for when these things make our economic / workplace model antiquated, is all. They’re good things, in my mind, that just need consideration as we go along. And the time to consider is now, before the unemployment rates spike?

Edit: Please remember that we don’t do political debates on SPF. Let’s not discuss politics or promote or argue against specific national policies here - let’s discuss this idea as a general (possible) solution to an (alleged) future problem and not bracket the discussion in political rhetoric, yes? Thanks!

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I don’t think there is a problem.

When computers were first introduced the believe was that there would be less jobs available but in fact the opposite was the case. I think that it is quite reasonable to expect the same to happen as further technology is introduced - job opportunities will increase and wages will go up.

That’s an interesting point of view. What fields do you think the jobs will be in? And will those fields expand to encompass the jobs lost to automation in the next few decades?

“When computers were first introduced” in my mind is not even remotely comparable to the situation we’re finding ourselves in now. That’s not to say that we should all cry that the sky is falling - there are extremes on both ends of the spectrum, but it’s certainly a world that can change much, much more rapidly than it was then.

Have you watched the video from the OP? The narrator actually addresses this particular argument.

I’m not convinced by this sort reasoning anyway. Just because something has been the case in the past is no guarantee that it’ll continue the same way. People often dismiss climate or overpopulation issues in the same way: “science has always provided us with answers in the past, so why should we be concerned now?”

Considering there already aren’t enough qualified people to fill all the IT related jobs out there, it’s difficult to see how the introduction of more highly-skilled tech jobs would balance out the loss of many more lower-skilled occupations such as truck driving (for example).

I really like the theory, but it’s not going to work. Humans are greedy, underhanded, and are all generally looking out for themselves and there is no way to prevent people taking major advantage of it.

I recently read an article about how people learn to game social systems quickly, but I don’t remember where. It doesn’t really matter though, all you have to look at is DRM for games as an example. No matter how much they spend, no matter what companies try, someone somewhere will figure out a way to get around it and distribute the software. If that person didn’t exist, then someone else would take their spot. In that sense, it’s really no different for any sort of social system we can put in place. You’re going to have millions of people trying to game it or trying to get the biggest cut of it they can. These people will be everyone from the poorest individual who doesn’t understand how to manage their money, all the way up, every step of the way, to the richest people in the nation. If we had even a fraction of that drive and will power put in to space travel, we’d probably have have colonies on different planets by now. What people are able to accomplish with enough effort is nothing short of amazing.

people taking major advantage of it.

Can you elaborate any? I hadn’t even thought of such a system being gamed, it seemed pretty straightforward to me.

Although to be fair, it’s not as though, for example in the U.S., the welfare system isn’t already being abused horribly, anyway. Not sure how bad other countries are in this regard.


I’m not saying that basic income is the same thing, just that it didn’t take people very long to take advantage of it and is generally considered a bad idea. I know Norway has some form of Basic Income, but I don’t think it would work at all in the US. There is really no way you can convert capitalism into giving people free money. We can’t even figure out healthcare.

There is really no way you can convert capitalism into giving people free money

Isn’t there, though? We already do! Medicaid, Medicare, Food stamps, cash assistance, heating assistance, section 8, you name it. And those programs each alone take far more to administer than a UBI would, I’ll bet.

This is just a baseline income. People will still work for pay. I know I would - why settle for what is practically minimum wage for free when I’m employable for quite a bit more than that? I feel like that’s where this differs from a Communist economic approach. That, and there are still free businesses - the government isn’t buying everything.

There is an oversupply of qualified IT people who are unable to get a job in IT because there are not enough jobs to go around. Many qualified IT people are working in other fields because IT jobs are scarce.

I’m just going off what I’ve read, and I was under the impression there was a skills shortage that was only going to get worse. Whether that’s the case or not though, my other objections still stand.

It’s pretty much the exact opposite of this in the US right now.

Perhaps they should outsource some of the work to Australia then.

I watched a documentary the other day which happened to be about obesity. They took a fat British guy (Britains are getting fatter) to a country where obesity is a problem. My immediate thought was they are going to america (sorry any americans reading this) but to my surprise it was Kuwait! Apparently due to the oil money they are all paid at least £30k+ salary for doing nothing. So they hire cheap immigrant workers (who aren’t allowed to stay in the country past 60yrs old) and get them to do everything. They have now got the taste for western food and as a result have an obesity problem.

It might not always be the case but i can’t believe that giving people money to do nothing is a good thing and will result in everyone playing tennis and getting along. I think it is more likely to make everyone fat and unhappy with little purpose in life. Why bother to teach your kids to do anything if you are going to get paid regardless.

There have been many examples in history of tech eradicating jobs. The threshing machine took peoples jobs to the point they would smash them up in outrage. Farming used to require many (fit and healthy) people and is now mostly a few people with gps guided tractors in giant fields after ripping out the hedge rows which protected the wildlife and stopped the soil being washed away (are we really advanced?).

we just seem to need more and more ‘things’ to make us happy as our attention spans have been trained to be tiny. As soon as we have it we want the next shiny thing.

Computing will of course be a massive part of society now and well into the future but as you say who will run it? Without being rude a very large part of society doesn’t have the intelligence to run it. You will always need some service people but will society divide further into 2 groups?

adapt and survive i guess.

IDK, I don’t see it that way. I feel like we would still teach our kids. Remember, the government isn’t going to be paying people ridiculous amounts. Enough to survive without working is a far cry from being happy and comfortable, for most people, or even filling 100% of one’s needs. I certainly wouldn’t have any interest in stopping working if such legislation was passed and checks started rolling. Plus if people are already living outside of those means (debts, larger homes, large families, etc) then they may not really have the option to quit working, anyway.

Yeah, but what are the two groups? If manual labor jobs are capable at some point of almost entirely automated, and it’s also creeping into things like programming, teaching, and medicine, then what two camps do you propose would be left? People to fix/run machines and computers (which, remember, many would be able to run themselves, or each other) and…?

So in the UK we have a benefit system already that many people abuse. In theory it is good… if you lose your job or are ill the government helps you to get back to work. But there are a lot of people was play the system and get everything paid for. My parents let houses and many (most) of the tennants over the years were on benefits and the local council pays the rent and additional money for the person to live. If they have kids they get paid extra to look after the children. Some of the children grow up seeing their parents playing the system and rather than bother to learn/work they take the same path. True it is not everyone will end up like this but there are a large proportion (i believe) that would take that option especially if working barely gives you any more (which is one of the problems of our benefit system).

Given the advertising currently on TV in the UK mostly tries to tell you that a happy family life involves buying a bigger TV, signing up to netflix, eating KFC and having to have superfast broadband i am not convinced more ‘spare’ time is going to lead to a healthier population :frowning:

Those are good points about systems abuse; but I feel like (at least in the US) our current bloated system for food, monetary, heating, phone, etc aid for unemployed or low income people is a hulking disaster that is gamed by lots of people, hard to access for those who actually need it, and just a big mess. I don’t see this being more game-able, but less. There’s nothing to game. You get your check. End of story :smiley:

Given the advertising currently on TV in the UK mostly tries to tell you that a happy family life involves buying a bigger TV, signing up to netflix, eating KFC and having to have superfast broadband i am not convinced more ‘spare’ time is going to lead to a healthier population frowning

To be honest, I probably (somewhat) agree with you. I know that personally I would love to have the time to go exercise regularly. I enjoy it, I just struggle to find the time. So me personally? I’d love more free time. I’d also pursue side projects and such. But I, personally, would both desire and need to work, too, so I might have less new-found free time to vegetate than a lot of people :smiley:

Edit: Consider, though, how many people already are unhealthy, unhappy, etc. Is the possibility of more free time going to be disastrous?

Edit: Do you have Netflix commercials on TV? That seems counter productive… (I don’t live in the UK, and I don’t get television service, so I wouldn’t know.)

yep sadly as whilst you are already watching tv people are trying to convince you that you should be watching even more and you shouldn’t be limited by being at home as you can now watch stuff whilst you are on the bus or in a park or in bed or places where there is actually more to see than the next episode of whatever.

Personally i liked the whole waiting a week to find out if the person was going to survive or not. Now everything has to be now now now stream the next episode now! oh they did survive… next box set please!

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