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Why are we here?
Transcript of Why are we here?
Why are we here?
There is a growing concern around the potential unmitigated effects of our advancing state of technology on humanity.
Is there potentially a root cause to all of these symptoms?
Universal Basic Income
Past, present, and future symptoms of a core problem
What's been going on?
40 years of occupational transformation
Source: David H. Autor, Journal of Economic Perspectives
Compensation from work decoupled from productivity over 40 years ago
Men have been slowly earning less since 1973
The bottom 80% has been receiving less and less of the total pie
Collective bargaining power has been falling since the 1950s
For the past 10 years, some costs have soared while others have plummeted.
Food and housing
are the two costs that have seen the least change.
We've left behind those under 24, and those over 65 have seen the largest growth in income
Incomes by race have continued to be segregated
Where are we now?
U.S. wealth is distributed almost entirely at the top
How we work has been transformed
The "Uber/gig/sharing economy" has begun
40% of workforce is now contingent labor
40 hour weeks have drifted to 47 hours
8 hour days average 5 hours work... why?
The rise of "bullshit jobs"
“Through some strange alchemy no one can quite explain, the number of salaried paper-pushers ultimately seems to expand, and more and more employees find themselves, not unlike Soviet workers actually, working 40 or even 50 hour weeks on paper, but effectively working 15 hours just as Keynes predicted, since the rest of their time is spent organizing or attending motivational seminars, updating their Facebook profiles or downloading TV box-sets.” - David Graeber
Effect of this much inequality on economic growth
OECD: Had inequality remained as it was in 1990, US GDP would be $1 trillion higher today, and would be even higher if we'd
"The impact of inequality on growth stems from the gap between the bottom 40% with the rest of society, not just the poorest 10%. Anti-poverty programs will not be enough."
The Federal Reserve surveyed 50,000 people in 2014 and found that 47% would not be able to handle an unexpected expense of just $400 without borrowing money or selling something.
More than 45 million needing food assistance since 2011.
Citizens with an annual household income greater than $100,000 are 80% likely to vote, while those with an income of $15,000 or less are only 30% likely to vote. (Nonprofit Vote, 2013)
“When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only
a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact
upon public policy.” (Gilens and Page, 2014)
The most common job in each state in 2014
Where are we headed?
3.5 million drivers
5.2 million related
? million dependent
Introducing the self-driving truck
Killing jobs but saving lives
In 2012 in the US, 330,000 large trucks were involved in crashes that killed nearly 4,000 people
In 6 years of testing, Google's driverless cars have driven more than 2 million miles and been in 16 accidents, all faultless.
When will driverless trucks take over the roads?
Most estimates point to a window of disruption centered around 2025, but the technology already exists. The roadblock is politics.
“Whenever California passes its operational regulations. We’re just waiting for that.”
- Sarah Hunter, head of policy at GoogleX when asked to predict when fully autonomous vehicles might be roaming American roads
Driverless trucks are already being deployed
CFO of Suncor, after saying self-driving trucks aren’t fantasy and that they’ve been testing them in their oilsands operations since 2013 with the intent of replacing their entire fleet by 2020:
“That will take 800 people off our site. At an average (salary) of $200,000 per person, you can see
the savings we’re going to get from an operations perspective
What else is here or right around the corner?
Deep learning algorithms trained by Big Data
International master level chess self-taught in 72 hours
Learned to play Atari 2600 seeing only pixels and points
Can now caption photographs
Can outperform humans in IQ tests ( < Master degree)
Even being applied to self-driving vehicles by Nvidia
What else is right around the corner?
Companies that need less labor
Companies that need no labor
China reported its first unmanned factory as part of "robot replace human" program.
Went from 650 workers to 60 workers
Defect rate went from 25% to <5%
Production went from 8,000 to 21,000
Sydney has world's first fully automated port terminal
Less fuel use, lower costs, no injuries
So what do we do?
The Great Decoupling
Why did wages and salaries decouple from rising productivity?
Loss of bargaining power
What happened to unions?
Globalization and public sentiment
Is there another way of increasing bargaining power?
Give individuals the ability to decline jobs entirely
What happens when work is no longer required?
Wages and salaries must adjust to attract workers
Where the required wage becomes too high, technology is welcomed to take the job
Less fear causing people to work more than 40 hours
Jobs requiring less than 8 hours of work can adjust
New ability to outright refuse jobs that need not exist
Productivity goes up with
all of the above
What happens when work is no longer required?
The Uber economy of on-demand work becomes a tool of empowerment offering greater control of hours
Increased ability for people to pursue their own work
Education becomes more voluntarily self-pursued, meaning less pressure on tuition costs, and greater uptake of alternatives like MOOCs
Psychologically, commitment to tasks is increased
What happens when work is no longer required?
More time to engage in political activism
Greater ability to vote on election days
More time to volunteer locally
More time for parenting and other care work
Less need for patents and copyrights
All of this assumes that everyone has enough income to live despite not being in the labor force. How? We make
a new starting point.
Introducing Universal Basic Income
No matter what, every individual gets the same amount as everyone else as an equal income floor set above the poverty level.
In the U.S. this would be at least $1,000 per month, and by definition it could eliminate poverty, but that is only one effect.
It's enough for anyone to refuse work which is both its greatest strength and the cause of most concern.
What happens when everyone gets $1,000 per month?
Welfare programs like TANF and SNAP no longer need to exist
Welfare cliffs are eliminated because nothing is lost with work (all earned income after taxes is kept as additional income)
All type II errors eliminated (false negatives) aka everyone we define as needing help gets it
All forms of unpaid unrecognized work become paid and recognized (parenting, open source coding, Wikipedia)
Minimum wages laws become entirely optional as everyone can refuse to work for insufficient wages
Left or Right?
"There is then the important issue of security, of protection against risks common to all... Here, however, an important distinction has to be drawn between two conceptions of security:
a limited security which can be achieved for all
and which is, therefore, no privilege, and absolute security, which in a free society cannot be achieved for all. The first of these is security against severe physical privation, the assurance of
a given minimum of sustenance for all
; and the second is the assurance of a given standard of life."
Left or Right?
"I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective -- the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure:
the guaranteed income
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
Not Left or Right but Forward
Support from the Right:
Support from the Left:
No more need for 300+ programs
Simplify the tax code
Can eliminate federal minimum wage
Fewer government employees
Elimination of poverty
No more holes in safety net
Universal strike fund
Have we observed any evidence for basic income?
The American Income Maintenance Experiments
Canada's Mincome in Dauphin, Manitoba
Universal Basic Income pilots in Namibia and India
Studies of cash transfer programs all over the world
GiveDirectly's work in Uganda and Kenya
Studies of basic income size monthly lottery winners
Alaska's annual Permanent Fund Dividend
What kind of effects have we observed?
Primary earners spend more time job searching
New mothers extend their maternity leaves
Birth weights increase due to maternal nutrition
Students focus on school, grades improve
Hospitalization rates decline (8.5%)
Crime goes down (42%)
Home ownership rates increase (4-6%)
More fresh fruits and vegetables consumed
No increase in alcohol and tobacco (19 studies)
Savings go up, debts go down
Entrepreneurs are born and so are customers
The Entrepreneurial Effect
In Namibia, when given basic incomes, self-employment jumped 301%.
In Liberia, when given basic incomes, 1/3 of recipients started their own businesses.
In India, when given basic incomes, recipients were 3x as likely to start a business, 2x as likely to increase their working hours as those in control villages, and 1/3 of women started their own businesses.
In Kenya, when poor people were given cash unconditionally, 90% of them used it to start their own businesses or purchase livestock.
Is it all positive? What are some negative effects?
Moneylenders worse off due to reduced need (recipients twice as likely to reduce debts)
Shift from wage labor to self-employment made it harder for employers to find employees
Reduced dependency of women on men for their survival
Eye of the beholder
How can we fund a basic income?
We're already funding about half of it
Additional revenue options include:
Elimination of subsidies, deductions, and credits
Consumption taxes (VAT, sales)
Financial transaction taxes
Treating citizens as shareholders like in Alaska (LVT, natural resources, patents)
Savings through reduced costs (crime, health, etc.)
What kind of support exists for basic income?
Willem Buiter, chief economist of Citi
Canadian Medical Association
Robert Skidelsky, economic historian
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed
Albert Wenger, venture capitalist
Erik Olin Wright, analytical Marxist
Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook
Sex Workers Open University
Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite
/r/BasicIncome on Reddit
Universal Basic Income as the
New Deal Coalition
In a time when we can agree on nothing, basic income holds the potential to be an idea that can gather support from across the entire political spectrum and bring people together at the same table.
It is not the only change we need to make, but it's the change that will have the widest range of emergent effects.
Where might we see it first?
Switzerland voting on it in 2016
Experiments are beginning in the Netherlands
Finland has very strong support and will experiment
Canada is gaining momentum quickly
Namibia has created a Ministry for Poverty Alleviation headed by Bishop Kameeta of the BIG pilot
Brazil passed it into law in 2004
Technology has been making things worse instead of better for decades, and we ain't seen nothing yet. It's also not tech's fault. It's ours.
We have stubbornly refused to fix the primary flaw in our system - that not working isn't really an option, so no one has any real bargaining power outside of unions, and no one has any consumer buying power outside of employment.
By introducing a universal basic income, we can correct that flaw, and consequently welcome technology to work for us instead of against us, freeing us all to seek purpose over survival, and abundance over scarcity.
Speaker: Scott Santens
Example: Food Services
bargaining power vs.
I want to focus on three things:
1. Tech's effects have been problematic for decades
2. This is because of a core problem
3. We can address that core problem