Automation is projected to be a major job killer.
In light of a recent Oxford study that foresees machines replacing as many as 47 percent of US jobs by 2050, low and high-skilled workers alike are starting to worry about mass unemployment, homelessness and worse in the face of automation’s inevitability.
Journalist Paul Mason, on the other hand, proffers that such fears are logical, but baseless. Instead, he argues that automation may not spell doom as long as we learn to separate work from wages. In order words, in a world where machines do the work, people should get the wages. These wages would be in the form of Universal Basic Income, partially subsidized by taxes.
The concept behind Universal Basic Income is also starting to gain support at the policy level. Most notably, UK Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has already advocated for Universal Basic Income to replace current state welfare programs for British low-income British citizens.
Aside from disrupting our current economic model, Universal Basic Income also has the potential to disrupt incentive structures. Unlike the current world where work is the main means of distributing purchasing power, the future may look more like a slave economy in which machines would work to provide for people.
As tantalizing as the future where robots work and humans receive the wages may be, we must first redefine the role of work in society.