Bill Gates: Robot Tax Necessary To Replace Income Funding Social Services

Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney recently interviewed billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft Corporation (Nasdaq: MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates, where the richest man in the world, as reported by Forbes, expressed his belief that with automated solutions replacing human workers, taxes will need to be paid by robots to make up for lost revenue that currently funds important social service programs.

Gates finds the situation where a person earning a salary of $50,000, and paying a portion of their income to the government in taxes, being replaced by a robot that pays none, unsustainable.

“What the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today and free up labor — let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class size, [and] helping kids with special needs.”

The technology icon described how fields that require “empathy” and “human understanding” continue to experience an “immense shortage” of qualified workers. Gates spoke of a hope that workers that may be freed up by automation may be able to be transition in to these fields, bringing society “ahead” on a net basis. He insisted that governments will not be able to “just give up” revenue generated from taxing employment income.

Gates believes that there may be a balance, perhaps where more efficient robots are not taxed as highly as their human counterparts, and that additional income may be generated from their efficiency, protecting the profit motive of firms involved in producing automated solutions. He stated that he doubts producers would be “outraged” if policy was implemented that prescribed that a government should tax robots.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Warren Buffett.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates with Berkshire Hathaway Chief Executive Officer and Chairman Warren Buffett. [Image by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]

McKinsey & Company reports that up to 45 percent of jobs currently completed by humans could eventually become automated.

Chief executive of Tesla, Inc. (Nasdaq: TSLA), Elon Musk, has also put some consideration into how the world might look as robotics and automation continue to replace humans. Musk has spoken out in favor of a universal basic income to replace income lost by the workforce, as reported by Basic Income News.

Business Insider reports that Bill Gates has criticized simply handing money to people in the form of “one-time transfers,” but notes that comments from the billionaire with regard to a universal basic income are elusive.

“Almost everything will get very cheap. I think we’ll end up doing universal basic income,” Elon Musk was recently quoted. “It’s going to be necessary. The much harder challenge is, how are people going to have meaning?”

Something else that has been on the mind of Gates, which he spoke about in January at the The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations in Davos, Switzerland, is a natural or human-caused pandemic, as reported by Business Insider. Gates believes that the threat of a pandemic is a “global” one and finds that there is currently a lack of preparedness for a situation that could result in “an excess 10 million deaths.” He described recent responses to flu epidemics as not being “super good.”

A man in a lab coat and face mask examines a blue liquid in a test tube.
[Image by koo_mikko/iStock]

Bill Gates stated that the problem surrounding preparing for a pandemic is a “tricky” one, because of the disparity of wealth observed by different nations, and deciding which should be responsible for providing what resources. The 61-year-old listed smallpox, flu outbreaks, Zika, and Ebola as being of major concern. He said that there was “some luck” with the Ebola virus, because it was not airborne and that it did not spread as far, or as quickly, as it otherwise might have.

When considering the consequences of a pandemic, either as domestic policy or as a purely humanitarian issue, Bill Gates believes that “these are investments that should be made.” In a opinion piece published with Business Insider, Gates discusses the possibility of a pandemic caused by a terrorist attack.

[Featured Image by Carl Court/Getty Images]