From Shelly Palmer a few months ago:

First.  (Journalists?  Really?)

Last.  (He forgot to include bed-makers and masseurs, hair stylists and a whole lot of others — ichthyologists spring to mind.)

But however one might dispute the specifics of his lists, the larger point is that we face rapid change that could make life amazing for 8 billion people — the sun powering all manner of machines that relieve us of most traditional work, leaving us more time to love and learn and laugh.  But that would require agreed-upon means to share the benefits of all this great technology, while also retaining incentives for excellence and hard work.  (Here’s an idea: how about the incentive being a bit more about applause and self-esteem, a little less about money?).  Universal Basic Income is an idea that deserves ever more consideration.

The alternative is a massive unemployment, demoralization, strife, and even-greater inequality.

Or not?

The Wall Street Journal recently offered, “Workers: Fear Not the Robot Apocalypse,” contending that “Automation commonly creates more, and better-paying, jobs than it destroys.”

But I’m not so sure.  Technological progress may now be accelerating-faster than we can find new things to need or want (at least new things that require human labor to provide).

There’s lots of jobs only humans can fill — caring nurses, cheerful servers, stand-up comics.  But once we’ve switched to sun-powered self-driving vehicles there will be no truck, bus, cab or limo drivers; no meter maids, toll takers, gas-station or parking-lot attendants.  And that’s just transportation. Just as agriculture — that once employed 60% of us — now requires fewer than 2% to meet our needs, the hundreds of animators who used to be required to make a film are largely replaced by a couple.  How many accountants will we need?  How many diagnosticians?

With our basic needs someday so easily satisfied, powered by free energy from the sun, Universal Basic Income (and universal health care) may be required to underpin the happy, healthy society of tomorrow



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