In recent years, the idea of universal basic income (UBI) has gained traction, particularly in the tech industry. Some argue that the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) will lead to job displacement and that UBI is a way to mitigate economic fallout. As such, there has been a growing discussion of whether AI companies should be taxed at a higher rate to fund UBI.
One of the most vocal proponents of this idea is tech entrepreneur Elon Musk. In a 2016 interview with CNBC, Musk stated that as AI displaces many jobs, there would be a need for UBI to be adopted. He argued that due to automation, there's a good chance for us to end up with Universal Basic Income.
Another tech leader who has spoken in favor of UBI is Sam Altman, the former president of startup accelerator Y Combinator and CEO of OpenAI. In a 2021 blog post by CNBC, Altman stated that "In just ten years from now, the wealth created by artificial intelligence could be so vast that every adult in the United States could potentially receive a payment of $13,500 per year." According to a report by AINEWSBASE, Altman believes that UBI could be funded by taxes on businesses and high earners or by the profits generated by AI and Automation.
While many tech leaders are often skeptical of government intervention in the economy, the idea of UBI has gained support among them. One reason for this is the recognition that AI is likely to create new jobs but will also displace many. The fear is that this displacement will lead to economic instability and social unrest. By providing a basic income, UBI can help cushion the impact of job displacement and ensure that people can still meet their basic needs.
It's important to note that not everyone can become a machine learning engineer or work in the tech industry. While the tech industry is proliferating and there is a demand for skilled workers, only some have the opportunity or resources to pursue such a career path. Additionally, the skills required for a career in machine learning are not easily acquired and may require extensive education and training.
As such, UBI is seen as a way to support those who may need more skills or opportunities to find work in the AI-driven economy. UBI could alleviate poverty and provide greater economic security in a country like the United States, where income inequality is already high.
One example of UBI being tested is Y Combinator's pilot program. In 2016, the startup accelerator gave 100 people in Oakland, California $1,500 per month for a year, with no strings attached. The results were promising, with participants reporting improvements in their mental and physical health and greater financial stability. Y Combinator is currently running a larger pilot program in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
In the United States, Andrew Yang made UBI a central issue in his 2020 presidential campaign. Yang proposed a "freedom dividend" of $1,000 per month for every American adult, which he intended to fund by taking a percentage of corporate profits specifically from data that big tech gathers. While Yang suspended his campaign and endorsed Joe Biden as president, his proposal brought greater attention to the idea of UBI.
Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr and Slack, recently announced his support for Universal Basic Income (UBI), as reported by Futurism. Butterfield is one of the latest tech billionaires to publicly endorse this idea.
Several other billionaires, including Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, Yusaku Maezawa, Pierre Omidyar, Andrew Ng, Bill Ackman, Bill Gross, Ray Kurzweil, Albert Wenger, Tim O'Reilly, Chris Hughes, McKenzie Scott, and Jack Dorsey, have publicly expressed their support for some form of Universal Basic Income (UBI).
The COVID-19 pandemic has also opened the door to policy changes, including discussions of UBI. Several countries, including Spain and Canada, have implemented temporary basic income programs in response to the economic fallout from the pandemic. In the United States, the federal government provided direct payments to many individuals and families as part of its pandemic relief efforts.
In conclusion, the idea of taxing AI companies at a higher rate to fund a Universal Basic Income is controversial and merits further discussion and exploration. While it is clear that AI companies are benefiting from advances in technology and automation that are rapidly transforming the labor market, it is also essential to consider the potential unintended consequences of such a tax policy. Nevertheless, if implemented correctly and in conjunction with other social welfare programs, a higher tax on AI companies could provide a sustainable source of revenue to fund a Universal Basic Income and help alleviate some of the economic insecurity many Americans currently face.