During the second night of the presidential debates last month, The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Democratic front runner Joe Biden spoke to dark horse candidate Andrew Yang — who believes that the displacement of workers due to automation is the problem of our time — during a commercial break.
Apparently, Biden is just as terrified for the future of the United States and the effects of automation as Yang is.
“No matter what happens, Andrew, you and I need to sit down and talk about the fourth industrial revolution because I’m terrified that we’re going to gut the middle class,” Yang recalled Biden saying to him as he spoke at a campaign appearance in San Francisco.
“And I said, ‘Hell yeah, Joe.’ This is a very, very positive thing that the message is getting through in ways big and small.”
Yang’s platform proposes a universal basic income (UBI) of $1,000 for every American over the age of 18. The Hill reports that he intends for the UBI to combat what he calls the “the greatest economic and technological transformation in our nation’s history” and the “fourth industrial revolution.” The serial entrepreneur and philanthropist is referring to the automation of 4 million manufacturing jobs in states like Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, which are states he says President Donald Trump won.
“My friends in Silicon Valley know full well we’re about to do the same thing to millions of retail workers, call center workers, truck drivers, and on and on through the economy,” Yang said, adding that the United States must begin thinking of solutions to handle the transition to a more automated economy.
Intern describes just how many jobs they've personally helped eliminate within weeks of starting their internship in automation. Automation should be something those doing the automating are proud of, not something people feel guilty about. We need productivity-indexed UBI ASAP. pic.twitter.com/leiutu9qEz
— Scott Santens (@scottsantens) July 16, 2019
As for Biden, it’s not the first time he’s spoken about automation. Per Futurism, the former Vice President suggested that — although he appreciates the concerns of Silicon Valley — UBI is not the answer and its purveyors are selling Americans workers short. Of course, this was back in September 2017, and Biden appears to have undergone at least had a small change of heart.
For supporters of UBI, it’s touted as an essential way to combat the jobs losses of automation.
McKinsey & Co. reports that 45 percent of jobs will vanish within 20 years thanks to automation. Although many point to past massive economic changes in the economy and job market as an example of the United States’ resilience, UBI advocates claim that automation is going to create a change that’s both faster and greater in magnitude than ever before.