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Basic income blues

The Atlas robot, built by Boston Dynamics and DARPA, getting whacked around by some dude in a warehouse.

My latest piece for The Guardian is about the tech industry’s fascination with universal basic income. It’s a subject that’s already been written about a fair amount. But none of the existing pieces I found took aim at one of the core arguments behind the tech case for UBI, which is that basic income is necessary because technology inevitably creates inequality, and as technological innovation continues it will create even more inequality.

This assumption isn't credible to me, and I go into some detail about why in The Guardian piece.

Unfortunately I didn’t have the space to address the more specific claim made by tech’s UBI advocates, which is that breakthroughs in robotics and AI will automate most jobs out of existence in the very near future. I don’t find that claim persuasive either, for reasons I hope to explore in another piece.

I also didn’t get a chance to discuss whether I think UBI is a good idea. I do, but I'm skeptical of the "basic income because automation" argument—not only because the facts on the imminence of mass automation don't add up, but because the politics seem dubious. I think UBI supporters are standing on firmer ground, factually and politically, when they see basic income as a tool to reduce poverty and precariousness in the present tense, not as a salary substitute for a fully automated economy in the near future.

Read the piece at The Guardian here.