There’s been a fair amount of press coverage lately on the potential for artificial intelligence and robots to take our jobs and how a Universal Basic Income could be part of the solution. Something the Silicon Valley tech-giants are putting their shoulders behind.
Some say that’s a good thing, while others disagree.
The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee report on Civil Law Rules for Robotics “takes the view that in the light of the possible effects on the labour market of robotics and AI a general basic income should be seriously considered, and invites all Member States to do so.”
As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of Universal Basic Income for all sorts of reasons. Not least because it frees us up to live the life we want to and, as far as I can tell, it’s the most credible way to have a capitalist society that allows people to opt-out if they want to.
However, it was the link between major corporations, automation and democracy that struck me most at a gathering of London Futurists where Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams talked about their book, Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work.
The argument from the audience that captured my attention went something like this…
With full automation we don’t have to work, but stuff can still be produced for people to buy and economies can still grow.
There’s only a handful of companies that can realise full automation e.g. Google, Amazon, Facebook.
Universal Basic Income is possible in an automated and thriving economy.
And now for the scary bit… the few mega-companies that are generating the profits and controlling the economy will have the ultimate say in how the country runs. It’ll be their shareholders that hold the power. Democracy dies, sold off for a life of doing as you please.
It certainly made me stop and think.
I haven’t changed my mind, but I have developed a little more caution.
photo credit: WanderingtheWorld (www.ChrisFord.com) ‘Bonfire’, United States, New York, The Hamptons via photopin (license)