Universal Basic Income and automation

As a programmer, I am very interested in using technology in pretty much everything to make our lives better. I’m equally interested in making sure that the increasing technological development doesn’t ruin our lives, which can happen in mainly two ways as I see it: the rise of AI can take a turn for the worse and wipe out or seriously debilitate humanity and the second one is not adjusting our economic system so that this revolution helps everyone and not just the people who own these machines. I will discuss the second problem today.

Today, more and more jobs are being lost to machines, and I only see that increasing. With that, many people are left with little to do for money and even though machines help make everything cheaper, so in theory they would still help everyone, the truth is that they can also create monopolies and give a lot more power to the people who own them, leaving everyone else fighting for scraps. This would leave us at the mercy of the owners of these massive corporations who will pretty much create and own all the wealth.

I think this scenario is unlikely to happen, however it is already happening at a reasonable and growing scale.

I believe the ideal future would be one where anyone can do what they want because machines will generate enough wealth for everyone and will subsequently give us that freedom. This future has its own problems to solve, such as a lack of purpose, what everyone will do with their time, etc.. But I think it is what we all want regardless. After all, we, in a general basis, work for money, so we can have food and shelter and then do whatever we want, whether that is helping others, making art, playing sports, dancing, having fun, spending time with friends and loved ones, discovering things about our planet and the universe, all of the things that we do for their own sake rather than for the sake of surviving. In order for us to create this future we need to think of new ways to use and distribute the wealth created by machines.

The best one I’ve found so far is Universal Basic Income (UBI). The basic concept is that it is a certain amount of money that everyone receives on some regular basis. This money is unconditional, everyone gets it, rich or poor, employed or unemployed and of course it can be used for anything we want.

The good thing about this is that it is something that we can implement right now and it would start addressing some problems of automation (giving too much power to certain people, leaving people jobless).

Some common concerns with this idea are:

  • Would it cause inflation?
  • How would you pay for it?
  • Would it cause people to stop working and become lethargic?

To answer this I’m going to be using as an example the proposal of Andrew Yang, who is a candidate for President of the United States, who’s main policy is the Freedom Dividend: 1000$/month given to every American citizen over 18 unconditionally, as I described earlier.

The way he plans to pay for it is with a Value Added Tax (VAT) of 10%, which is like a sales tax, it’s a tax applied to every purchase you make (although I believe he plans to leave it out of certain essential items or at least adjust it) and this would generate the necessary 1.8 trillion dollars necessary to pay for it. It wouldn’t cause inflation because the money would already be in the economy, so it is just getting redistributed, rather than created.

In regard to the motivation for people to work and in general move the human race forward, I am personally inclined to believe that a great part of the population has an intrinsic motivation to do just that, but I could be wrong. While I believe that this is something we should keep in mind, I don’t think it will be a problem with this version of UBI, since there is still a motivation to work. The Freedom Dividend will not afford the highest standard of living, it is a base and you can only go up from there. Unlike welfare, where if you make extra money you will lose the money you were making before, with UBI you don’t lose by trying to make more money.

To be honest, I’m more worried that we don’t reduce work hours even with this extra income, because I think many people could be doing better things for themselves as well as to benefit everyone else but they don’t because they’re overworked and work consumes all of their energy. To be honest, I may be a little illusioned for thinking that most people will end up doing something that benefits humanity, but I’m sure that a lot of people today are doing work they don’t want to, so at least it would allow pretty much everyone to have more freedom and therefore become happier, which sounds like a benefit for humanity to me. In the best case it would encourage everyone to live their best lives and help others to the same.

what, why and a little rant about my life right now

The reason for this blog is helping sort through my thoughts and register them for myself because I’m that self-centered. It’s also to share them with others so I can know what people think about what I think (however unlikely it is that other people will end up coming here). Finally, I believe it will help me learn how to become a better communicator. So yeah, it’s a very selfish blog, as you’ll see if you continue to read this post.

I suspect I will enjoy writing about my thoughts and I think it will help further developing my ideas, because I spend a lot of time in my own head and this seems like a good way to make use of that.

I plan on following the rule that I should only post what is surprising in some way, so I’ll try to trim the fat, but I make no promises!

I guess I should go on to talk about something other than the blog itself 😀

In the last couple of days I found myself majorly overwhelmed for the first time. The problem was not just that I had a lot of things to do (most of them related to college, a lot of projects). It was that and the realization that I wasn’t going to be able to do what I want with my time, at least this semester.

I signed up for what I thought was a regular number of classes (I just started my masters, and I have a certain degree of freedom in what classes I can take) while at the same time being involved in a side project where other people depend on me. Those two things alone are manageable, the problem arises with the fact that I like to do much more than college and that specific side project.

Specifically I have three major things that I like to do and would hate to have to give away. These are surfing, skating and playing Overwatch, with my interest in the last one slowly fading out, but I am very interested in replacing it with another competitive video game that I enjoy.

Being young is an advantage when playing competitive games, so I want to use that while I have it, and of course it is nice to be young for skating and surfing as well, but since I’m not necessarily competitive in them, I’m not worried about that, I just want to do them for fun and exercise.

I’ve come to realize that these things are very important to me, and now that I’m in a situation where I don’t really have time to do them (especially playing Overwatch, which requires time to get good at it and stay good to reach the level I want to), I feel terrible about taking on these classes and involving myself in the side project (which will last a year, so it also eats some of my next semester).

This is a pretty pessimistic view of things, I’m not gonna lie, and I don’t always think like that, but I’m doing it here partially to force myself to find a solution for this problem. Or to at least consider what I sign up for next semester more carefully.

Honestly, it’s been pretty intense to write about this, because I guess I became pretty good at not having these feelings by focusing on the present task, but it’s still something that casts a shadow over my life, since one of the things I believe the most is that time is very valuable, and I feel like I pretty much committed my time away in a stupid way, but I guess you live and learn (that feels really cheesy to say btw).

I do realize that this post may look too self centered or like first world problems or something, but it’s what is legitimately on my mind and what’s bothering me, so that’s what I have to say. I’m not planning on every post here being about me, but to be honest, I don’t know if I can help it, which may be a problem if I’m writing for other people. I’ll keep that in mind as I progress with the blog.