Elon Musk Foresees us Adopting Some Form of Universal Basic Income

in #basicincome4 years ago

Likelihood of Automated Jobs

It's become pretty common knowledge by now that as robots and artificial intelligence are automating many tasks, there is concern over what jobs would still be available for humans. We've already seen large number of job losses in the manufacturing industries, McDonald's is replacing workers with automated kiosks, and there is even an artificial intelligence Lawyer called Ross Intelligence that has started being hired by some firms.

-Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX

Many of the jobs most mentioned as being threatened by automation are lower skill jobs such as telemarketing, accountants and salespeople. Professions that more with non-routine tasks or require high social skills are currently viewed as being safer from such replacements in the near future including engineers, psychologists, doctors, therapists or editors.

Why Universal Basic Income

As the global workforce modernizes and low-skilled workers lose their jobs, momentum builds around the idea of a universal basic income, or a fixed, regular payment that all residents, no matter their employment status or wealth, would receive from the government.

Most estimates that I've read have estimated in the US that Universal Basic Income (UBI) would provide each person with approximately $1000 per month. This would by no means put someone into a state of luxury, but enough to at least survive by having the ability to eat and a place to stay. Obviously the actual buying power this would provide would vary with costs of living being differing from place to place.

It is important to have an idea of how this would be paid for however. Personally I see more damage then good to get a number of people dependent on a system like this only to have it suddenly ended, leaving them scrambling to pick up the pieces which they hadn't seen the need to budget for. Rather than seeing this as a pure expense that has to find new funding, Universal Basic Income would replace the vast majority of the current social programs in place that provide citizens with a safety net such as "Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, Supplemental Security Income, housing subsidies, welfare for single women and every other kind of welfare and social-services program."

The estimated spending on welfare programs in the United States is currently estimated at a little over One Trillion Dollars. It's worth mentioning that not all of this money is what actually goes into the hands of welfare recipients with the various administrative and oversight costs that go along with this, where a UBI system wouldn't incur these expenses.

Has Universal Basic Income Been Tried Anywhere?

A two year experiment will be running from 2017-2018 in Finland where people already receiving unemployment benefits will be replaced with a monthly income of about $600 per month to use as they wish. Their goal is to "assess whether basic income can help reduce poverty, social exclusion, and bureaucracy, while increasing the employment rate." Even though this experiment is referred to as an incremental change in the welfare system versus implementing a Universal Basic Income, it will be interesting to see the results towards their stated goals.
Read more on this here.

Oakland, California, USA
Y Combinator is funding a pilot Universal Basic Income program in Oakland, CA for 100 families in the city. Each family will receive between $1000-$2000 per month for between 6-12 months which they can spend as they choose with no restrictions.

First, UBI subsidizes disruptive technologies. “The motivation behind the project is to begin exploring alternatives to the existing social safety net,” Elizabeth Rhodes, the research director for Y Combinator’s UBI project, told Quartz. “If technology eliminates jobs or jobs continue to become less secure, an increasing number of people will be unable to make ends meet with earnings from employment.”

Read more on this pilot program here.

Other similar UBI experiments (some planned, but yet to begin) can be found in the Netherlands, Canada, Scotland (if passed,) and potentially New Zealand.

Won't This Just Make People Stop Working?

This really tends to be the big question in my eyes over the actual costs (since Universal Basic Income would replace the huge welfare system costs.) Ultimately this is why I'm so interested to follow these trials and experiments to see the effect is has on individual motivations to work. I've seen many arguments that those receiving UBI would pick up part time jobs, freelance or on-demand work, as well as some say allow individuals to actually take more risks such as starting their own business since they have a safety net in place.

In the 1960's and 70's both the US and Canada performed some trials to see the effects that a UBI would have in regards to 'work' from the recipients. Finding from the experiments run in Manitoba, Canada found "The reduction in work effort under Mincome was modest: about one percent for men, three percent for wives, and five percent for unmarried women" with some of this resulting in mothers choosing to spend more time at home with their children and teenagers not getting part time jobs to instead focus on school where sharp declines in drop out rates were seen.

More reading on the effect of UBI on work can be seen here.

For Additional Reading:
On the Future on Employment
Robots will eliminate 6% of all US jobs by 2021, report says
The Future of Employment
These Are The Jobs That Will Be Safe From The Imminent Invasion Of Robots
On Universal Basic Income
[Of Course We Can Afford A Universal Basic Income: Do We Want One Though?]
Elon Musk says robots will push us to a universal basic income—here’s how it would work
Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income
A Guaranteed Income Would Be Better Than Our Corrupt Welfare System
Universal basic income wouldn’t make people lazy–it would change the nature of work
A Guaranteed Annual income: From Mincome to the Millennium (2001)
Will Your Job be Done By a Machine?
Automation and anxiety

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Image Sources:
Elon Musk Quote
Job Chart


It's a very interesting question. So much of society and life is based around working at a job. UBI gives you the freedom to work at what you want to do rather than whatever you can find that someone will pay you for. Also, undesireable jobs that still need to be done will need to be made more appealing, since no one would be forced to do it just to survive; most likely by higher wages. I personally think it would be a fantastic thing and would create some really radical and positive changes in society.
"Why do we work?" is a question that is not asked nearly enough.

Exactly! I know there are the two schools of thought on this; one saying UBI causes pure laziness and the other saying it frees people up to actually do what they want versus have to do.

I'll admit I'm overall in the latter, believing most people would take advantage of the freedom of time they are allotted. Even if it's not their ideal job, they can work a more menial task here and there for the extra money...saying saving up for a luxury or something.

Personally, I view work (once the basics have been met) as a personal grasp for betterment. This could be acquiring something material they want or more abstract of being able to find what they are truly passionate/curious about and go down that path (even if not necessarily paid the whole way.) The game changes in my mind when we don't 'have' to do things (i.e. acquire enough to be fed/sheltered/etc) and allowed to truly explore our desires/curiosities/etc.

I truly hope to see these various UBI experiments show positive results...like Steemit, it's one of those things we have to actually see be successful before most people would believe it. :)

I think the requirement to have a job overall hinders society. Just think of how many brilliant minds are trapped in deadend menial jobs because if they don't work those long shifts day after day they won't have enough to eat or money to pay rent etc. Now with automation and UBI we could end that and see some really great things.
As a counter to people being lazy, the most driven brilliant and productive individuals do the work they do, not just to feed themselves, or earn money, they want to make a contribution to better society or whatever field they are working in and I think UBI would let more people do that. Sure, some would just sit back and enjoy a very humble existence, but I don't think there's anything fundamentaly wrong with taking that route either.

Im completely on the same page with you. When a person wants to be doing something, effiency and productivity have to be higher in that state. It'd be like deciding consciously to play your favorite game (competitively) to lose. Lol

This topic always reminds me of a microbiologist being interviewed who said that a cell is always in one of two states; defensive or growth. I see our state of mind in a similar way.

Eh, i'm skeptical of the pessimism around automation. Given the historical record we should be biased positive that it'll continue enriching our lives and creating new industries:


It's possible we encounter some sort of "this time is different" scenario where AI starts doing all human work for us, but i'd imagine that'd also be accompanied by super abundance and then maybe UBI is trivial and ubiquitous...

I can understand that side of the argument. I somewhat liken it to 'limited resources' in the sense that when one such resource runs out, we need to the find another to achieve the similar function. In this sense, it would be the creation of 'new sets of jobs' to replace the ones that were lost to automation.

While I can't say I know anything for sure, I do see the more exponential progress of technology possibly beginning to catch up with us. It very well just be a matter of retraining versus the jobs flat out being lost. It'll be interesting to see what occurs over the next handful of decades.

yeah we'll see. it's possible an AI singularity sort of thing completely outpaces our ability to reallocate the displaced, it just hasn't yet happened. all we have to go on so far with tech innovation is that it continually boosts productivity, wages, employment, creates new industries, etc. Possible that trend reverses, but i think it's more likely that people are overreacting and erroneously extrapolating :)

A couple of points.

  • the chart indicates an 89% probability of automation replacing technical writers. Hasn't that happened already? Many times I read a user manual which shows no relation to reality. I always thought it WAS written by a robot...IF you can call that writeing...I mean really assembly instruction : take it out of the box and put it together wow...real expertise there huh?

I'm only partially joking.

What I really think is that technical writing might be among the LAST area to be replaced by automation. Creative writers of any type must definitely have an understanding of the subject material. They must KNOW what they are talking about before they can explain it to others. I present the public education system as an example....

er...on second thought...perhaps not.

But you know what I mean.

  • Won't this just make people stop working
    and what if it does? Do we have a shortage of labor or a shortage of jobs?

  • not all of this money is what actually goes into the hands of welfare recipients with the various administrative and oversight costs that go along with this, where a UBI system wouldn't incur these expenses.
    interesting point...suppose the majority of the welfare money is administrative expense (something like 80/20 I understand)...if that's the case then it's not really welfare is it? It's a government jobs program. It keeps people employed working for the government.

Personally, I'd like to see something like a citizen ship share, that is, if you are a citizen of a country then you have a stake in it...you are expected to do certain thing by the state, why should that come with no expense TO the state? Consider it a 'retainer' that the state must pay to keep you 'on hold' in order to do what ever it is that the state thinks you SHOULD do. Voting perhaps, and jury duty? (We won't mention the elephant in the room, ....conscription. )

Think of it as 'shares'...we'll all be 'trust fund' recepients.

Won't this just make people stop working
and what if it does? Do we have a shortage of labor or a shortage of jobs?

In the economic sense we would especially during the transition period have less jobs available. With jobs being the way we get the money needed to survive (outside the welfare programs) the labor I'd assume would still be looking to work. Usually after some time a new method does come out that changes the paradigm, steemit for example. While it's not exactly paying all the bills as it stands right now, I'd say most people don't currently view time on here as 'work.'

The other side of this coin has less to do with the money and more on the 'too much time on peoples hands.' In many places really high unemployment mixed with lack of basic needs being met leads to more negative things like crime, violence, sometimes full out rebellion. Depending on the circumstances boredom can be a motivator to do both great and not-so-great things.

I rather like the citizenship share you mentioned. It reminds me of something I'd read (I Think Here) that got into business ownership in a similar sense. Whatever company you worked for, you were part owner. When you changed jobs you lost ownership there but gained it at the new place. It very much changed the sense of the group (however that's defined) towards a more cooperative view since everyone has direct benefit for the company/country doing better. Currently I don't believe this to be the case in most corporations or really for countries, for the majority of it's employees/citizens. Just cause you work hard doesn't mean it directly provides a benefit.

In some of the UBI experiments I've read, some of the people receiving UBI were offered a 'bonus' for doing certain things (usually community service, volunteering, etc.) but the voting/jury duty could easily fit in there. While conscription can be included, that one I'd have to think on some more...both because I'm always a little concerned on required military service (even though some places like Israel do have that in place for most if not all citizenry) it also takes up a larger portion of time to train properly, which also has it's own side effects. (not saying it's evil or anything, but a soldier can't be in a spot thinking how they feel about 'taking the shot' when in the thick of things, which can cause difficulty when back in civilian life.) It's all an interesting idea regardless!

This somewhat reminds me of Starship Troopers where being a citizen has to be earned in some way...military service was the main one mentioned in that book/movie. Things that are just handed to people aren't always held to be meaningful...to a degree this is why college fraternities require pledges to 'sacrifice.' Both because they want to establish the 'camaraderie' (I'm not saying frats are good, purely an example) as well as a decreased likelihood that they will exit the group easily since they 'know' the work, time and trouble that was invested.

I do think having 'shares' and receiving the 'trust fund' would be an interesting approach.

Have you seen the vivacoin project? It has some rings some loose similarities in my head to this.

I just scanned your link, thank you. It brings up some interesting questions
for example in which it says:
machines do break down, so you need people to fix them
have you ever tried to get a microwave oven repaired?
how about an integrated circuit chip?
have you ever tried to get one repaired?

It is as much a cultural and attitude change when you effectively pay people to stay out of the workforce. I believe, in the main, if there was no need to work most people would want to either study, do research or even undertake some sort of voluntary work (as distinct from Voluntary social work - although not excluded). At present because many feel (and are) forced to work for wages our attitude is generally to relax when we are not required at work. We now have children who are well educated (in many countries) who take a gap year, then study and study and study and maybe do some paid work part-time. This is only the first step in the change that is to come - roll on the Robot Revolution.

The change of culture and attitude are a great point and I totally agree. We basically work the bulk of our life to 'buy the rest back' (i.e. retirement) looking for that down time when we are between shifts/work days.

Making that change isn't going to be terribly easy, especially at first while it seems like that relaxing time is what were needing (understandable) so badly. So many of us feel the overwork whether by choice or force...it always seems to catch up to us. While it's not always put to the best of uses...boredom does cause people to react, ideally by finding their own passions and putting effort into that, but admittedly some do choose to numb themselves to that internal drive to do something (i.e. drugs, alcohol, etc.)

Currently (in the US) we do also have unemployment benefits that easily last up to two years with rules in place to actually prevent people from working. Typically these benefits are lost once you start a new job, so unless your getting offered an amount over the unemployment check, it actually impedes work. Lol.

I'm with you, there's no denying the robot revolution, so we might as well start trying to adapt ourselves now.

I think something will be need. I think just as important is the question of what we can give people to fill their time. Boredom and mental health issues due to increasing isolation when people no longer have a formal job may be an even more difficult issue to solve.

Definitely an issue that would need some serious consideration. Once you don't have a job, what do you fill the time with? Community based events and lifestyles could get a major boost, you'd have many more people available to participate in them. However, you'll need new kinds of community leaders and coresponding changes to education, to get those things started and to continue.

Yes. Great points - it may encourage a return to old style communities too where people knew each other better and looked out for each other.

I totally agree with you there. That's somewhat how I view the 'will people still work' question...for me being more a concern on that 'filling time' in a positive way. It's a big focus for me when the results come out from many of these trials/experiments...actually get to see how people choose to use this time. So far the only results I'd seen so far were for the Manitoba, Canada experiments, but who knows yet if those results will be similar in other places, especially when applied into different cultures.

It'll be interesting to see how some of the new efforts work out, especially with them being done in places across the globe.

Yes definitely.

There is some form of basic income being kicked around where I live.

Unrelated I see your week of All Elon/All the Time posts is over half done! lol, good job! (Y)

Oh really?!? Is there an article or write up on it? Just being curious on how they are setting it up and to see what results they get...good or bad.

Hehe, I'm trying. I've got one more Musk related post (a shorter one) I hope to knock out tomorrow. I probably won't get to the 5th in a row on Friday though with that being my moving day.

As much as I despise the Google for actually being evil..... here is a complete search string on the topic, for my Province in #Canadastan on the subject with links to everything and gov't websites and propaganda lol


Ah nice! Ty. I didn't know exactly where you were in the world, forgot about the Canadastan, lol. I'll definitely read up, just being curious.

LOL. No problem! I will send you a quick PM on FB. Safe travels!

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Elon Musk wants us all to be socialist?

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