Artificially intelligent machines are set to smash the job market in the next 15 years and take tens of millions of jobs currently being done by humans and Bill Gates thinks those robots should pay taxes.
The tax on job-stealing robots would be levied against the businesses that employ them and used to retrain humans who have been displaced in the workforce, Gates said during an interview with Quartz.
“You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed [of automation]. You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once.”
Machines are set to replace humans in a variety of tasks in the near future including jobs in manufacturing, driving cars, as retail clerks, servers, lawyers, and even doctors.
When the human labor force is suddenly replaced by these machines it will take time to adapt society to the changing conditions, which is why a tax is needed to slow the automation process, Gates told Quartz.
“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”
Sooner or later society will have to deal with the consequences of automation. When intelligent machines can perform the repetitive tasks of basic laborers and replace highly skilled works our culture will need to change.
Some estimates place the human job loss as high as 47 percent of the U.S. labor pool, according to the Washington Post.
With so many humans unable to find employment it will become necessary not only to provide financial aid, but also a new purpose for life instead of work.
Some optimists tell us advancing technology will bring new jobs like it did in the Industrial Revolution, but that period of societal upheaval took 60 to 90 years to sort out, which is a bit long to wait.
That’s a good reason to slow down the pace of automation and job loss.
In Switzerland, citizens protested this week demanding the right to universal basic income for those workers displaced by machines. The human picketers donned cardboard cutouts shaped like robots and rallied for a government-issued check in the amount of $2,600 per month.
The cardboard clad, but otherwise probably normal Swiss citizens, argued the shape of the human workforce has been fundamentally changed by automation and they have some appeal to the masses.
In June, Switzerland will vote on the universal basic income issue, where about a quarter of the country supports the government stipend. The proposal was first introduced by Daniel Straub in 2013 and later supported by 100,000 citizens who campaigned to put the measure on the ballot, according to Inverse.
“We are living in a time where machines do a lot of the manual labor – that is great — we should be celebrating.”
Science fiction offers a few solutions to the concept of a robot workforce. In Dystopian futuristic novels most citizens are on basic income, a stipend barely large enough to live on, and the only off is to join the military or become an adventurer in space.
Star Trek, however, offers another view, one where humanity has risen above greed and the accumulation of wealth to work as a species for the benefit of the planet.
What do you think will happen when robots replace humans in the workforce?
[Featured Image by iLexx/iStock]