Universal Basic Income: The Full Rundown

Nikhil Reddy

If you’ve been paying attention to recent advancements in artificial intelligence (if not, no worries, just check out some of my older work), you’d know that some very smart people posit that 40% of U.S. jobs can be swallowed by automation in the next 25 years. The melancholy truth is that this is a certainty – these machines will come to do our work better than we can – so we must maintain a plenary focus on protecting the financial and occupational interest of those whose jobs are up for grabs.

The solution – receiving troves of support from the likes of Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and Richard Branson – is universal basic income. Nothing more than a monthly benefit that’s given out regardless of professional status or even intent to find work, the concept has come under fire as of late. Leave it up to the billionaires and technology behemoths to append a few digits to the telephone number salaries they already dole out. Don’t be so quick to judge, however; positive implications of UBI abound, and it may just be the saving grace of our domestic workforce once automation has made its sweeping overhaul of the professional landscape.

Universal basic income operates under the fundamental belief that unconditional income would increase job security, mitigate the pangs of work-based stress, and engender the freedom to explore business prospects without monumental risk. Recipients don’t have to actively seek employment, and they are under no obligation to report their progress – the money is theirs, no questions asked.  

Obviously, this is a contentious issue; the implementation of UBI pervades every aspect of economic and social policy, and to think that any struggling or barely erect infrastructure could assume such costs is idiotic. On the other hand, notice how this is an eminently sensible policy, the struggle solely exists in implementation for nation states that have other priorities for its denizens.

I know, I know, this sounds like a leftist ideology that’s exciting in whiteboard meetings but fully disastrous in execution. But, I disagree. I think UBI has an incredible amount of potential to do away with much of the bureaucracy and intemperate regulations inherent to welfare programs like unemployment and social security.

Think of it this way: if I gave you a choice of free college tuition, healthcare, or an unconditional basic income, what would your preference be? Granted, it’s depressing to exclude two of the three, but for the purposes of elucidating the benefits of UBI, I think it’s important. Giving citizens even a small safety net could unlock explosive amounts of entrepreneurialism, professional risks, individual businesses, and most importantly, the knowledge of knowing you have a few extra bucks to work with every month.

I will concede that implementation is a egregiously large challenge, and I’ve glossed over it this piece. What most people forget, however, is that with the advent of artificial intelligence, things are about to get a lot cheaper. Machines will be able to do our work for less, without the need for a lunch break or eight hours of rest. This dilutes company costs, increases profits, and for socially aware enterprises, makes the widespread implementation of UBI much easier to swallow.

UBI has an incredible amount of potential, and if we become deeply aware that most successful individuals have had the time and security to ponder their budding business, free from the constraint and imperative to make enough to eat, who are we to say that this shouldn’t be a right for every citizen of every nation?

(Krakozawr via Getty Images)
  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.