Is Basic Income a Viable Concept in the Automated World?


A universal basic income, a concept where all inhabitants of a country will be entitled to some form of economical foundation for survival, might seem utopian. However, the topic is more and more frequently discussed and not only at the grass-root level. It is always extremely hard to validate concepts that have not been implemented. A fundamental change of this magnitude might have to be polished and developed in an incremental and evolutionary way. In any case, there are many reasons leading towards the necessity of a discussion on the topic as well as the inducement of public awareness on these issues. There are several factors calling for some kind of change to the economical system, may it be basic income or not which provides the answer.

The introduction of basic income would mean that all people in a nation would receive economical means generated from taxation in other areas. Welfare as we know it, which is costly and bureaucratic, would be discarded and replaced with a monthly sum of money with no strings attached. Critics argue that the productivity losses would be huge and that people would lack the incentive to work. These are valid statements, but are they true per se? Would most people really just give up the opportunities and dreams tied to profession, or neglect the possibility of earning more by taking a job anyway?

The answer is that no one knows. However, the incentives of a new societal solution are profound, whether the key to prosperity and a happy population is basic income or not. As the world becomes more and more automated, jobs will disappear. As we have read in numerous articles and studies, there is heavy debating on whether we will manage to replace the jobs or not. The score seems to be 50/50 among the experts but one thing remains clear: the jobs that might possibly replace the lost ones will likely be very simple or very advanced. A complete report covering this issue is for instance provided by Pew Research here

This means that there will likely be a disruption and a shift in the workforce . Many people will suffer through this economical reallocation. Wages might decrease for humans battling computers and robots in a variety of fields, from taxi-drivers and service agents to paralegals and medical personnel. Massive unemployment might come along, at the same time as the automation continues to accumulate more capital in the pockets of the owners of the assets. Robots might increase revenue and will for sure drive down employment costs, which makes the scenario seemingly unavoidable. Thus, the gap between the wealthy few and the minimum-wage workers will widen.

The general idea behind basic income is to share and redistribute these centralized gains, which in the current debate has refuelled the discussions of the concept and made it contemporary. Who knows, we might not have seen the last revolution yet? We have already witnessed massive protests on Wall Street, followed the less fortunate in their demonstration against internet moguls in California –  and this economic shift is just starting. What could happen in the future? Could we see something similar to the French revolution (hopefully with less bloodshed)? Again, no one knows.

Although, the most important piece of the future lies in the awareness of the general public. In a democratic society knowledge and information is crucial for making decisions in the best interest of the population. Mistbreaker takes no side in the debate, but is keen on the infusion of foundational knowledge and democracy. For two interesting pieces on the discussion, we recommend two articles. The first one from Vox and a second one from io9, hopefully these will function as some food for thought.


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