Basic Income Proposals Challenge Governments, Robotics Industry

In the News
April 05, 2017

The idea of a universal basic income is growing in popularity worldwide, from Canada and Finland to India and beyond. Why?

Like proposed taxes on automation, it’s one reaction to the predictions that millions of people will lose their jobs to robots.

In my previous article, we looked at how different countries are looking to offset displacements from robotics and artificial intelligence. Now, let’s consider the pitfalls of and challenges to a universal basic income (UBI) and what it means for robotics companies.

Business Takeaways:

  • Countries could deploy and deliver a universal basic income in different ways. One nation might simply provide money, while another could enact new regulations on robotics companies.
  • There are several unknowns around basic income schemes. How will they affect worker motivation and productivity?
  • UBI may be the first of several steps that governments take to rein in automation and the impact of robotics and AI on society.

Land of laziness?

Each business depends on its employees to be productive. But what incentive is there if workers receive a basic income from the government, regardless of how they perform?

Last year, The New Yorker examined a basic income pilot that took place in Manitoba, Canada, during the 1970s. The program’s goal was to see how UBI might alter people’s behavior. For instance, would they quit their jobs?

The pilot found that society could actually benefit with the introduction of a basic income. The number of people in hospitals declined, and young teenagers stayed in the education system, according to the test data.

The Guardian proposed that the U.K. already has a basic income scheme and that the recipients of this scheme aren’t lazy. They are the members of the royal family.

The point is that, besides a few trials, there is a void in understanding how employees would change if their incomes were no longer tied to their jobs.

For most of us, the typical basic income scheme wouldn’t replace all of our salaries. But it could supplement them enough to affect our choices — even beyond the workplace.

Delivering a basic income

How would universal basic income be delivered? In advanced nations, there is little concern over bank transfers or checks being sent out via mail. But the situation is different in the developing world, where corruption remains...

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