“Basic income is not a utopia, it’s a practical business plan for the next step of the human journey.” -Jeremy Rifkin
Unconditional Basic Income (also called ‘basic income guarantee’ or ‘social dividend’) is a system of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money from a government regardless of any other income. Pilot programs have been introduced in a number of European countries, that are aimed at replacing outdated bureaucratic welfare systems altogether. In the U.S., various tech leaders including Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are supporting the idea. In the forthcoming Age of Superintelligence [and automation] everyone should be entitled to social dividend, “free” money such as UBI, just for being alive. We should not forget that the wealthiest of us would not be as fortunate without civilization. Otherwise, Jeff Bezos would have to forage for food in the Amazon jungle all by himself. Being a human, a member of the technologically advanced civilization, today is more than enough of a fair contribution to receive free money from the government. Going forward we’ll see more and more prominent voices vouching for UBI.
At the 2018 TED Conference in San Francisco, futurist Ray Kurzweil made a bold prediction about the future of free money: “In the early 2030s, we’ll have universal basic income in the developed world, and worldwide by the end of the 2030s. You’ll be able to live very well on that. The primary concern will be meaning and purpose,” he said onstage at the annual event. This timeframe also coincides with when Kurzweil, Google’s chief futurist and director of engineering at Google Research, thinks AI will pass the Turing Test — when it becomes impossible to discern machine intelligence from human intelligence. At that point, human jobs could become increasingly scattered.
Entrepreneur-billionaire Elon Musk had the chance to share his thoughts on Universal Basic Income (UBI) at the 2018 World Government Summit in Dubai. Musk argues that the government must introduce a UBI program in order to compensate for automation. Such program could boost productivity, encourage creativity, improve health, alleviate poverty, reduce crime, raise education, and improve overall quality of life. Interestingly enough, UBI would also stimulate economy as more money will be spent by an average consumer as well as serve as a “cushion” against future economic downturns due to the cyclical nature of capitalism.
Every time I buy groceries or air tickets, I pay a sales tax for the semi-automated infrastructure that we all enjoy in our market economy. What most people don’t realize, though, is that there’s one particular segment of the U.S. economy which has been fully automated for years now — capital markets, such as the electronic stock market. Wall Street firms now trade financial instruments via trading robots, or algorithmic programs, “algos.” One second for a Wall St. algo is a “lifetime” in human terms. High frequency trading algos make millions per trading day at the expense of investing public. Why? Because algos are programmed to react in nanoseconds to changing market conditions and news. In other words, the stock market is “rigged,” as most investors and traders are at the disadvantage in this marketplace — they don’t get favorable pricing and execution.
The debate goes on for years now but I think we’re overdue to implement a small financial transaction tax on high frequency trading. After all, if everyone pays for our common economic infrastructure, why should Wall Street firms be exempt? The revenues collected from taxing industrial robots and Wall Street trading robots would be more than enough to pay for UBI as preemptive measures against massive technological unemployment and social turmoil. At some point, sooner than many people think, governments will be forced to implement UBI. Ironically, implementing UBI may prolong the relevance of nation-states by a number of years, as we’ve discussed elsewhere.
On the way to abundance from classical capitalism to a post-scarcity, hypercollaborative economic model, where goods and services are produced at “near-zero marginal cost” in a new digital economy, UBI proponent Jeremy Rifkin argues that technological forces will inevitably displace employment but at the same time will create conditions for economic paradigm shift. Jeremy Rifkin is the principle architect of the European Union’s Third Industrial Revolution long-term economic sustainability plan, the bestselling author of twenty books on the impact of scientific and technological changes on the economy, the workforce, society, and the environment. According to Rifkin: “The Internet of Things will connect everything with everyone in an integrated global network. People, machines, natural resources, production lines, logistics networks, consumption habits, recycling flows, and virtually every other aspect of economic and social life will be linked via sensors and software to the IoT platform, continually feeding Big Data to every node — business, homes, vehicles — moment to moment, in real time. Big Data, in turn, will be processed with advanced analytics, transformed into predictive algorithms, and programmed into automated systems to improve thermodynamic efficiencies, dramatically increase productivity, and reduce the marginal cost of producing and delivering a full range of goods and services to near zero across the entire economy.”
In an essay for the Green Institute, titled “A Universal Basic Income: Economic Considerations,” Frank Stilwell, a Professor Emeritus in Political Economy at the University of Sydney, writes that there’s an “inevitable uncertainty” surrounding UBI and its economic consequences, which all depend on how it’s implemented. Assessing the value of our collective inherited wealth would yield billions of dollars in cash to pay for UBI, while stimulating economy. “Currently, those who benefit most from our socially built assets pay almost nothing to use them. But that needn’t always be the case. We could charge for using key components of our legal and financial infrastructure; for example, modest transaction fees on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives could generate more than $300 billion per year. Such fees would not only generate income for everyone; they’d discourage speculation and help stabilize our financial system. Similar fees could be applied to patent and royalty earnings, which are returns not only to innovation but also to monopoly rights granted and enforced by society,” says Stilwell.
Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates also suggests that robots should be taxed in order to help finance social programs such as UBI: “Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.” Proponents of Universal Basic Income are becoming increasingly vocal about its implementation and for good reason — robots are coming sooner than most people realize, thus displacing millions of jobs. Perhaps, the next round of Occupy Wall Street movement should be transformed into Tax Wall Street movement with the more clearly defined political agenda.
P.S. Read more on the future of economics in The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind’s Evolution, where an entire chapter is dedicated to economics.
About the Author:
Alex Vikoulov is a futurist, digital philosopher, evolutionary cyberneticist, cosmist, independent scholar, founder of Ecstadelic Media Group, painter, media commentator, essayist, author of “The Syntellect Hypothesis: Five Paradigms of the Mind’s Evolution,” “The Origins of Us: Evolutionary Emergence and The Omega Point Cosmology,” “The Physics of Time: D-Theory of Time & Temporal Mechanics,” “The Intelligence Supernova: Essays on Cybernetic Transhumanism, The Simulation Singularity & The Syntellect Emergence,” “Theology of Digital Physics: Phenomenal Consciousness, The Cosmic Self & The Pantheistic Interpretation of Our Holographic Reality.” Self-described neo-transcendentalist, transhumanist singularitarian. Lives in Burlingame, California. More Bio…
Tags: Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Ray Kurzweil, Jeremy Rifkin, Frank Stilwell, Universal Basic Income, UBI, technology unemployment, technology displacement, basic income, social dividend, tax Wall Street, tax robots, Occupy Wall Street, high frequency trading, Wall Street algos, financial transaction tax
**Original article first appeared on EcstadelicNET (ecstadelic.net) in Top Stories section on February 28, 2017