October 2013, I wrote an article about a new type of government that is recognize the evolution of society and technology. About 27 paragraphs down in that article, I mentioned a system I called the Guarantee System. It was my term for Universal Basic Income before I knew about UBI. The short version is technology has gotten to the point that physical jobs can be automated out of existence. It is said that Many CEOs Believe That Technology Will Make People Largely Irrelevant. As certain kinds of automations become more affordable, physical jobs will be automated out of existence. However you feel about automation, it may turn out good for a lot of people or create great difficulties for many.
Companies like Amazon will have blimps or such in the sky, floating warehouses, powered by drones and artificial intelligence. I have thought through this development and can see a ripple effect. Floating warehouses in the sky combined with smart-phones and robotics means that you don’t have to get in your car and drive to the store. More people will make purchases from their smartphone or verbally initiate them casually from their couch into Amazon Dot with the drone sending a text message 5 minutes later the package is now at the door. You briefly get up from your couch, open the door, the drone snaps a picture of you from a distance to get package pickup confirmation, and you go back inside. The more people who do that, if the number of people who do that is large enough, the more stress that places on traditional retail. More stores close and more people are out of work due to the convenience of the technology. Amazon does not have to hire those people because the work is already done by automated machines.
Bridgewater Associates, one of the world’s largest hedge funds, is planning to have some of their managers replaced by computer programs. White-collar jobs are not safe from automation when the type of job has significant flows through a computer and the flow of information (like phone calls, emails, messages) can be managed by a computer program in real-time as to what actions a person should or should not take. The foremost company of our time ushering in a new era of automated decision making by machines instead of humans is IBM. They have systems that can even encroach upon the work of production film editors as shown in 2016 when an IBM AI created a movie trailer. Whether financial, medical, industrial, or entertainment, automation is transforming the way work is getting done while excluding more humans from the process.
Michael Lewis has a book out named The Undoing Project. I watched a commentary on the book in which Michael Lewis described some of his insights from research. He found that many of us make decisions based on stereotypes, bias, emotions rather than logic. This creates blindspots in our decision making. When I combine his statements with those made by Ginni Rometty in discussing the possibilities for automation, I conclude that automating more decisions could lead to better execution in business and government operationally. Can we be sure our computer systems will be the basis for better decisions versus humans? Others have and will undoubtedly debate that into torturous detail.
While the jobs are going to the computers, what does that mean for everyone else? Finland is doing a 2-year experiment to assist 2,000 people with basic income regardless of their employment status. It does not matter if 80% of the people on universal income live out their lives in a primate derived social troope configuration. Idle time sometimes lead people to spontaneously pursue innovative, productive activity which could emerge into innovative outcomes as the catalyst for such. Society only has to get lucky once per generation and universal income becomes an investment in society to create the conditions for group wealth in arts, sciences, technology and a wide array of enhanced services. I have seen many people pursue retraining during unemployment or underemployment. Although a small percentage of people will pursue unproductive activity, most people want to improve themselves and a universal income actually increases economic possibilities while sustaining a positive innovation chain-reaction. Not all creations and solutions people come up with are profitable, but some of them can become a trigger for those solutions that do.
Physical work was required by people to build the society around us. The roads, buildings, machines, and recovered health, food served, and many things has required people’s physical involvement throughout human history. That meant people could exchange their labor for things and services and invest what they get in return into things and services. That creates a cycle we experience as economic activity. Economics is not about someone making money. Receiving money is an incentive to produce activity. Economics is about the allocation of resources to trigger activities that enable a structured society to function. Universal basic income is about applying economics to encourage society to self-develop in the pursuit of become higher quality human beings who contribute, produce, and express life with greater quality.