Universal Basic Income - Future or nah?

Discussion in 'Politics & Current Events' started by oc616, Sep 21, 2017.

  1. oc616

    oc616 Control Deck Wins

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    Couldn't see a thread relating to this, but it was brought up elsewhere in a ham-fisted way. I think its worth exploring the idea on a separate post.

    The current rapid development of AI and automation has made this an increasingly popular topic of discussion. Much of this revolves around what will be an increasing gap of tech knowledge and skills for the working class as each generation goes on (see the latest South Park for an example: "Mining and driving trucks are not jobs of the future"). I won't go into more detail on this scenario, as it leads to its own tangent, but would UBI be an answer to this?

    I'll start with how I would perceive a theoretical UBI system, since I see a lot of different interpretations that range from "literally everyone on welfare" to "it shouldn't exist because its wrong". My proposal will use the UK as an example, since it's the place I best know.

    The UK spent a total of £258 billion on Welfare in 2015. What I am proposing, is that Welfare would be erased and used in part towards this UBI system. However unlike other more Socialist leaning suggestions, it does not end there. The amount UBI would pay out will not provide enough to cover rent + food + travelling expenses as it currently does under welfare, but would instead provide an large portion towards basic survival, with the aim of making work a "top up" of wages to dictate what kind of quality of life you will have. What this would mean is your employer would pay you less, whilst your overall income would be the equivalent of what you have in the current system. Lets say your income per year was £18,000 as someone in a call centre. Your employer would pay you only £8000, where the £10,000 would be the basic income. What this would allow is a greater tax on these companies to support UBI on top of the reassigned funding for Welfare, which looks to be more than enough in theory to accommodate the UK's current population.

    Now one of the counter arguments I often see to UBI as a whole is quite a "feelsy" one, with understandable concerns, where it would encourage laziness. If UBI was a pumped-up Welfare system everyone could exist on, then yes I believe it would certainly be a danger, however if the money itself is not enough to give you the quality of life you desire (short of Water, tinned bargain beans and no clothes or transport), then there is your incentive to "top up" your income. What you can then dedicate your time to depends on you. If you are a hard working individual who scoffs at the idea of UBI because "lazy people", well congratulations! By your estimate you will be in more demand under this proposed system than you currently are, again with no less income because you will work as you already do. For those who would like using this time to take more risk in an entrepreneurial manner, your risk will no longer mean you hit zero should it fail. Isn't that what the free market (according to the internet) needs more of to save the economy right now? More people taking more risks and keeping the money moving? So those who are more inclined to be "lazy" still end up in the same position they were always in if they were working, or worse off should they choose not to work full stop. Those who work harder will be in more demand, but also have the option of pursuing something else with the time that they work without falling 100% to a risk which too few are willing to make in the current economic climate.

    So in short, your income is still the same as it is under our current system, but your employer would pay you less, be taxed more to accommodate for that, allowing you more options to use for your free time from a financial standpoint.

    Anyway, that's just my theory on the potential of UBI, which as I said seems to be different to the majority of ideas I've looked into. Maybe you think some of those hold more water? Maybe you think UBI is the work of the devil? I'd like to see some more thoughts.
     
  2. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    One issue off the bat: £10,000 may go a good bit toward surviving in some places of England, but I'd be dead trying to survive on that in London. Does this basic income vary depending on where you live? What about how many children you have?

    It seems a weird mix of private/public -- public gives me funds and suggests it's enough to get by on, while the private services that are needed to survive -- food, shelter, electricity -- are all private operations and can adjust according to demand, which in turn redefines how much is truly needed to survive. As history shows, these adjustments almost always favor the private services!
     
  3. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    It's an interesting idea, but I don't believe that automation or AI will lead society in that direction. Though just as automation has eliminated a certain segment of middle-class-tier blue collar jobs, it's possible that AI will do the same for middle-class-tier white collar jobs, but it's also possible that the outcome of that is the end of the middle class as we know it. The (United States) government is constantly threatening cuts for a very limited slate of benefits, and they'd rather we devolve to feudalism before offering citizens more.
     
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  4. oc616

    oc616 Control Deck Wins

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    @narad: London is a very weird animal. In some respects, it basically IS the UK in terms of financial impact, to the extent where pricing and infrastructure are so vastly separate from the rest of the country. Obviously this concept requires something slightly harder to change and that is the people's attitude towards this, along with the gradual evening out of prices to better match the rest of us.

    @Demiurge: Whilst I do believe it will lead society in a direction where something like this will be necessary in our current numbers, that opinion is based on our attitudes towards work and what it means for us remaining stagnant (i.e: Work is important to being human). I'd love to get into the whole "brains in jars/upload our minds to computers" endgame scenario thing where these issues become irrelevant, but it doesn't add to the theory since it goes well past that chronologically. One example I can speak of in the states for the White Collar jobs is for lawyers. They're dropping like mad, all because you can look most things up online now. Does this mean an endgame scenario where lawyers don't exist? No, but a shrinking necessity? Absolutely.
     
  5. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    Not sure this is true. It'd be like saying doctors are a shrinking necessity because people can look up causes of their symptoms online (LUPUS!?). There's always need for an expert opinion, and it will be a long time before AI can be that expert.
     
  6. oc616

    oc616 Control Deck Wins

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    I don't know, I think there's quite a difference between "oh, so that's how I can sort my taxes efficiently and legally" vs "oh, I might have cancer."
     
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  7. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    I don't think sorting out your taxes was ever really the majority of legal work for JDs.
     
  8. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    Let's imagine two line graphs

    Line graph #1: Human population over time

    Line graph #2: Available jobs over advancement of automation technology and AI

    Now, I realize that these line graphs aren't actually visible before your eyes, but do you notice that one line is going up and the other is going down? That's the issue. It has to be addressed, because the lines aren't just going to magically change directions.
    What is the best solution? I don't know. It's a really complicated problem. However, one thing that is obviously not a solution is to sit around and do absolutely nothing to address it. I'm not sure if a 'universal income' plan would turn out good or bad, but at least it's something.

    My personal idea is to adjust the work week standard. But then again, if we're getting a decent base under universal income, only someone who really wants that cash will have to work 40 hours a week, someone who is happy living at medium standards should be able to get by doing 30 hours. And especially in one of those civilized cultures where there's public health care.
     
  9. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    The obvious question with all proposals like this is "Who pays for it?" It's certainly a possible scenario, but without figuring out the front-end of something like this, you can't figure out the other end.

    And I don't think the problem is that there aren't enough jobs for humans to do. There are too many shitty jobs that people don't really want, either because they are not fun or they pay very poorly. I think businesses have gotten the idea that people are worth a certain amount of money, and then when stuff gets made wrong or they have whichever quality issues, no one really wants to properly address the fact that paying your workers half of what they are worth leads them to take their jobs only half as seriously as they ought to.
     
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  10. coffeeflush

    coffeeflush SS.org Regular

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    There was a discussion about this in India , it wont be implemented anytime soon, but it will be up for review in 2022 again.
    Depending on how the job market turns out, it could be seriously implemented by 2030.

    "The obvious question with all proposals like this is "Who pays for it?" It's certainly a possible scenario, but without figuring out the front-end of something like this, you can't figure out the other end."
    Companies need customers, even if entire AI's run their operations, they will need to acquire data, they can either give free services in return or pay the subjects for their data. Money should ideally disappear as a concept.

    Of course this is assuming everything goes ideally, we have North Korea war threat looming, still strong presence of Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan etc and China that behaves like a bully.
     
  11. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    A) I don't understand how that addresses the question, though.
    B) If the very concept of money is voided, then isn't this entire discussion also moot?

    I don't think the concept of money will go away, though. If I want to eat food, I need access to food to eat. Someone needs to produce that food, though, in any case, so if I offer no incentive to the person producing food for me to eat, then they simply will not give me food. If I offer them some incentive to make food for me, then they are infinitely more likely to do so - I could offer them a service or a physical resource they desire, or else, more conveniently, I could offer them money - a token that they can use to trade to anyone else for goods and services. I just think the money option is the most convenient.

    We tried once to switch from government sanctioned moneys to electronic moneys and the world wasn't quite ready for that, but either way, it's still money.

    We keep going this direction in the discussion, though, like the general idea people get is "oh well, if a robot can add the value I used to add to something, then not just my profession, but the entire idea of profession becomes obsolete," and there is just not enough logical meat to that argument for it to be taken seriously. There will always be something for people to do. As machines or robots or computers replace us from one task, we need to simply find more interesting tasks to do in their stead. Some day in the distant future, when robots replace us from doing every imaginable thing, if we haven't imagined new things by then, then why should we exist beyond that point?
     
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  12. CrazyDean

    CrazyDean SS.org Regular

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    Too much value is given to a single human life.
     
  13. coffeeflush

    coffeeflush SS.org Regular

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    Food outside the US and Europe is actually damn cheap to mass produce. Its the transportation and distribution that costs a lot.
    Converting it into a powdered slop like Soylent can actually help regarding that
    By cheap I mean less than a dollar for a whole day cheap.

    When you decentralize power production, it becomes really cheap. We just have to keep on working on reducing power consumption as we currently are with chips/lighting solutions/pumps etc

    Same for water distribution

    Energy for heating is a tough one, Germany is struggling still to get rid of coal and other countries have not fared much better.

    With AI coming in, I do agree that lot of jobs will be gone, until recently I was working on site in construction. 90% of what I do, can be replaced by a Microsoft programme that can recognize safety hazards and monitor on site activities, as well as produce bills , calculate quantities of materials etc. Personally I think this is necessary as construction is an inefficient industry and this will bring down prices that have been unnecessarily inflated.

    That being said though, what Bostjan said is correct , there will be jobs for humans too (how man idk, even robots can compose music now and good one at that) and they will be compensated better than they are now.

    But I put my money on Humans becoming cyborg hybrids and living with AI as a part of their body and mind. There is an interesting book on the topic if someone cares

     
  14. inaudio

    inaudio Hack Fraud

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    But how will we then decide who gets to have a Daemoness built by Dylan?

    I know that sounds a bit like a joke but it's something that came up in a discussion I had with a friend. When there's limited supply of something how would you handle high demand?
     
  15. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    They are surmountable, but there are still challenges. Baby formula in China is dirt cheap. But it also contains dirt. And lead. So, even though Chinese baby formula is very cheap, and American baby formula is very expensive. China can rationalize that "well, having a baby is a luxury, so whatever." Other cultures disagree.

    What happens when China takes over soylent production and starts using pork byproducts? How are people in Indonesia going to react to that? And what happens when a batch of soylent from Bangladesh ends up with cadmium in it, because the workers there, making less than a penny a day, deprived of sleep and proper nutrition, accidentally swap the industrial effluent streams between the food factory and the nuclear missile factory.

    This goes back and forth. Advances in things like wind and solar electricity make localized distribution easier, but then big power companies are always pushing forward research to make big power companies make more money by distributing power further and further away, using bigger and bigger transformers (in terms of MVA ratings) or HVDC. At some point, it'll be cheaper to generate wind where it's windy and solar where it's sunny. We already have strict limitations on where we can generate hydroelectric power. It also makes more sense to transport electricity over long distances than to transport oil, coal, or even natural gas, so building power plants wherever resources are bountiful and extending the distribution grid further into other regions is ultimately the future of infrastructure.

    Hmm, this one is real trouble. One thing is that people need water to survive, and there is no way around that. But water is heavy and difficult to transport, compared to just about everything else. Because it's one of the most universal solvents, it picks up contamination from everything it touches, so decentralized water production is going to be key for the future, but, ...how? If I live in the Atacama Desert, where am I going to find something wet to make my water? I think the major major step is to figure out how to turn oceanwater into potable drinking water economically, then perhaps simply abandon places where there is no water and no nearby ocean, like much of Siberia, the central Southwest USA, etc. But several key technologies have to be able to advance, or else the human population of the world will have to cap off when water becomes too scarce.

    No one is ever 100% irreplaceable in the job force. It all boils down to economics, though. If you don't make a crazy high wage, do decent work, don't cause drama, and do something relevant to your company, it's cheaper for them to keep you than replace you with a $100MUSD robot with a $75kUSD/year maintenance budget. The sad part, though, is if your coworkers slag about or cause problems for your employer, you will get canned in solidarity with the rest of them. I think a significant part of why there is so much interest in automated trucking is because a) insurance is too expensive, and b) truckers falling asleep behind the wheel and causing damage to property and human life has become so high-profile. And really a major component of why (a) is a problem is because of (b) as well. So 5% of truckers are essentially responsible for poisoning the well for the other 95%, although, really, the automation was probably inevitable at some point, just like everything else. Everywhere I've ever worked that has gone through some automation project, though, the automation was always very expensive, and the corporate agenda tied back to some issue that everyone agreed was a problem, even if automation wasn't the ideal solution as much as just firing the troglodyte who kept sticking the boss's keys and office supplies in the press/lathe/core/cyclotron/whatever, chuckling like a Beavis and Butthead character all the while. Or, in a lot of cases, replacing a harmful task with a machine. If an assembly line has to hire a guy to bend over and pick up a heavy box/bail/part and lift it onto a conveyor, and the company intends to replace him with another conveyor or a robot arm or hydraulic piston, no one usually complains too much, especially after seeing what a few years on the job does to that employee's back.
     
  16. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I must be the only one who isn't convinced that AI is actually as capable, or ever will be, as people are claiming. AI cannot, and (as far as I can tell) will never be able to replace an actual thinking person in a lot of roles. Automation is a real thing, but that's been around for quite a while, and we're not "obsolete" yet. And people still need to create and maintain these "AIs"- the development life-cycle for most software doesn't generally mean you can create a thing and let it run off into the sunset on it's own. Software is usually not very solid. It's bug-riddled, and full of clever hacks, and assumptions, and compromises. And it doesn't really think for itself, despite calling it "intelligence".
     
  17. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Just for humour-

    Imagine a world where essential service workers are replaced by robots. Your home is on fire, and someone has come to save you from the burning wreckage closing in around you...it's...Honda Robotics?

    [​IMG]

    Well, rescue didn't go as planned, let's turn on the firehose!

    [​IMG]

    Well, @!#!@!
     
  18. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    In these sorts of discussions, I always hear people say things like

    now I'm no math whiz, maybe even the opposite, but in order for people to maintain the same ratio of employment, we'd have to 'invent' one new job for every one job taken by AI/automation. Also keep in mind that ordinarily one robot can take the place of several people. Now unless we imagine a scenario where human population decreases over time, it still seems like there's going to be a serious problem.

    To say that "Don't worry, there will never be 100% absolutely NO human labor" seems kind of like a strawman fallacy, because I'm pretty sure no one is actually worried about that. We're worried about what will happen long before we get anywhere near 100%. It makes me wonder, at about what percent will our system as we know it start breaking down? 25%? less? more?
     
  19. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    To be fair, though, the entire "robots are taking our jobs!" argument is one big strawman fallacy based off of pure speculation.

    Overpopulation actually is a much more real problem for the job market, since many jobs don't scale up in necessity 1:1 with population. I've taken flack for saying this before, but the same goes for outsourcing. You had hundreds of highly skilled automotive engineers, for example, laid off by Chrysler when Daimler bought the company more than a decade ago - because they already had their own German engineers. I haven't heard of any downturns in automotive engineering being blamed on advances in software. Both of those issues (overpopulation and outsourcing) have a much larger impact on the feasibility of Universal Basic Income (which, if we recall, is the topic at hand, after all) than automation anyway.

    Take any specific example of something happening now or that happened recently, and go from there, if you want to try to keep an arm's length from the strawmen.
     
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  20. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    I don't know that the goal needs to be new unique roles- does it not accomplish the same thing to just expand the number of jobs in existing roles? If we have more automation, more AI, then we need more software engineers and things like that. I don't see a need to "invent new jobs" so much as just re-arrange/displace existing ones.
     

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