How “AI” and “UBI” Could Change the World
What are AI and UBI?
These two words may seem unrelated, but they have the potential to change society.
However, as AI (artificial intelligence) takes jobs from humans, and the highly intelligent working class dealing with AI and the unskilled working class lose their jobs (digital divide), it becomes necessary to redistribute wealth in order to maintain society. The idea of UBI (universal basic income) is attracting attention as a methodology for this.
Recently, Ryo Hatto, a management consultant, has written a book titled ‘How AI and BI Change Humans’ (Gentosha, NewsPicks Book).
Does the combination of AI and UBI make people happy? Let’s trace the argument.
Millions unemployed by 2030
In 2015, Nomura Research Institute released a sensational prediction. It said 49% of Japan’s workforce could be replaced by artificial intelligence. Many of you may remember that job type, which will be replaced by AI in the future, is now clearly defined.
As if to prove that expectation, at the end of 2017, 3 of Japan’s megabanks announced that they would use AI to reduce their workforce on a large scale. On the other hand, the Japanese government set forth the 4th Industrial Revolution in the “Japan Revitalization Strategy 2016” and defined the 4 keys that will spawn the future productivity revolution as IoT (Internet of Things), big data, artificial intelligence, and robot sensors.
The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry estimates that if the government fails to properly respond to the 4th Industrial Revolution, the middle class will collapse, and if the situation is left as it is, as many as 7 million people will lose their jobs by 2030.
Does UBI make people happy?
Business intelligence, a method of redistributing wealth, is being debated by European economists. They argue that a system should be created in which the state unconditionally provides a minimum standard of living to its people.
This idea originated about 500 years ago with ‘Utopia’ by British philosopher Thomas More. The argument that all citizens are valuable members of society and have the right to share the wealth of society as a whole is attracting attention as a theory that supports the concept of UBI.
While anthropomorphizing AI is debatable, Bill Gates suggested that robotics taxes be used to finance UBI with the reasoning, “If a robot takes a human job, it should be taxed at the same level as a human.”
On the other hand, there are negative opinions such as “Giving money to people who don’t work is the same as communism” and “How can we finance it?”
Alaska has had a similar system for more than 30 years. It is called “perpetuity fund” with oil business as its source. The fund is supposed to be established in operation for the benefit of all Alaskans, and a uniform distribution has been paid to eligible residents regardless of their social contribution or wealth. When Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visited Alaska last June, he touted the state’s social institutions, including the perpetual fund, as a great reference for other regions.
In Japan in June 2016, a national referendum was held to decide whether or not to approve the use of UBI, which provides approximately 270,000 yen (roughly S$3,392) per month to adults.
Interestingly, the UBI system is supported by both liberals and conservatives. Liberals want to fight poverty because AI takes away human jobs, while conservatives want to streamline the current costly social security system.
Human benefits of AI
AI is taking human jobs at great speeds in the midst of globalization. The corresponding redistribution of wealth, on the other hand, is a political story, so it’s clear that the response will be delayed.
It’s hard to predict at this point whether AI will be a positive or negative thing for humans. Ideally, we’d like to see people become more productive thanks to AI, and with that extra time, people can enjoy their lives. Can we someday welcome such a society?
This article was originally posted on December 20th, 2018