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Robots are coming for our jobs, but one radical change could make that OK
Danielle Muoio Jun. 8, 2016, 3:29 PM 2,578 5
robot android hire me signReuters/Mark Blinch
It’s time to start preparing for a future where robots take most of our jobs.
Or so says Rob Nail, the co-founder of Velocity11 – a company that built automation equipment and robotics for cancer research and drug discovery before being acquired by laboratory manufacturing company Agilent.
“In a 20-year timeline, every physical task will be able to be taken over by robots,” Nail said at Exponential Finance, a two-day conference on AI and robotics sponsored by CNBC and Silicon Valley think-tank Singularity University.
Nail is also CEO and associate founder of Singularity University.
Nail isn’t the only one thinking job automation is right around the corner. President Barack Obama warned Congress that robots are going to begin taking over jobs that pay less than $20 an hour, placing 62% of American jobs at risk. And a report put together by Citibank and the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford predicts some US cities could have up to 50% of jobs taken over by robots.
“We still live in a world where our economic system relies on everyone having a job. Maybe everyone doesn’t need a job,” Nail said at Exponential Finance. “If our politicians can’t entertain a different version of the future, how are we going to get there?”
That’s where basic income comes in.
‘We don’t have a lot of time’
Basic income is slowly inching its way into public consciousness.
Basic income is when individuals are given a set amount of income unconditionally. Period. Even if you’re making money through some other means, like a job, you are guaranteed a set amount of money from the government each month with basic income.
Kenya is launching the largest basic income experiment later this year. And a man in Sarasota, Florida will get $1,250 a month for an entire year from a nonprofit that’s testing how basic income might work around the world.
Basic income experiments are also slated to start in the Netherlands, Finland, and Canada sometime in 2017.
Even Angus Deaton, the 2015 Nobel Prize winner for Economics, has encouraged governments to use basic income grants.
So if other countries are willing to test basic income, why not do the same in the United States? Nail has actually met with the US Department of Labor to convince them to try it out.
“There’s definitely people in the Department of Labor who totally get it. And they’re trying to be champions for change in a lot of ways and figure out new models and what to do,” Nail told Tech Insider. “But then there’s also the people who really will not even engage.”
He said a lot of people, not just within the Department of Labor, don’t understand how rapidly technology is advancing, from robotics to driverless cars.
“When the government will take two years to entertain the possibility of maybe possibly running an experiment, it’s way too slow,” he said. “I mean literally, I think it is a 20-year problem, and in terms of the pace of politics and social change that is the blink of an eye.”
Nail said he’s open to the idea that there are better ways to address the problem than basic income, but that it’s important to start testing new economic systems.
“We don’t have a lot of time,” he said.