This Blog Post was originally distributed by the Newsletter "Financial Idiot". You can find and subscribe to it here.
DISCLAIMER: I'm an idiot and this isn't financial advice! You can lose money when investing, and you should never invest money you don't own or you can't afford to lose. I'm not responsible for your decisions!
Welcome back to another issue of “Financial Idiot”. Since we’ve talked about politics in the last two issues, I thought we continue it in this one. As you’ve already read in the Title, we are talking about “Unconditional basic income” (Bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen).
Let’s start with a brief description of it. Unconditional or Universal basic income is a form that doesn’t depend on any requirements. A UBI can be granted by a state to its citizens, for example. Every citizen would receive the same amount of money regardless of their other income. For some people, that could mean they won’t need to work anymore to go along with their lives. For others, it can be a great relief from stress if they don’t have to think about how to pay rent (if they’ve got other, additional income).
Such grants could open up the possibility of letting people work the job they want and not the job they need. Although I love my job, if I’d had the base support for my Apartment and general base protection from getting homeless, I would immediately switch over to something in the health sector. I would probably work part-time as a paramedic, to be honest.
Many critics of such an idea say that many people would stop working entirely and linger around. But I don’t think that is true, sure, some people wouldn’t curl one finger, but most of humanity can’t just do “nothing”. Many cultural societies and clubs would open up. More people would have time for hobbies like painting, and the cultural heritage would explode in no time. That would also mean people who couldn’t study because they couldn’t pay rent if they would study could start studying. I don’t want to think about how many great “thinkers” we lost because people hadn’t the opportunity.
I don’t want to start the discussion if we need something like that already or if that will be a thing we might only need in 100 years or later. But let’s consider the following factors that will arrive over the next few years.
Considering the recent Tesla AI Day and the fast-moving pace of automation in the automobile industry, people will lose their jobs in the foreseeable future. Just thinking about automated driving, trucks driving on our roads nowadays will be the first to go fully automatic. Maybe not in five years, but it should be achievable in the next ten years.
Or think about the automation in car factories that is in place even today. A good friend recently told me he doesn’t even know why he still has a job because the stuff he does at the assembly line is done faster and more accurately by robots.
And that are only two sectors where human labour will be a thing of the past. Sure, newer generations will not learn this craft anymore, but there is still a bunch of people working in this sector. And they might be without a job in a matter of years. Of course, many of them could change over to another profession, but that won’t work for all. So what do you do with millions of people without jobs? They still need to have shelter and eat something.
That is where the universal basic income will have to step in. The thing is, it doesn’t feel like any state is looking into that topic, and I find that problematic. Problematic because it won’t be a topic in 100 years, but because it could be a topic in the next 25 years or even sooner.
Looking at the Tesla AI Day and the Robot they present, I’m baffled at how far along we are already. After Tesla announced this Robot, I thought we would still be years away from a prototype, but they showed off this year. I can’t even imagine what Boston Dynamics has up behind the scenes.
Now critics might argue that such machines are expensive, and that might be true. Still, even if such a robot like Tesla is prototyping now costs 50k USD a year and needs to be replaced yearly, it will still work the same as three humans, costing 150k USD. If those robots are advanced enough that they can be used broadly, their cost of them will also go down very fast. We might look at one Robot, replacing two to three humans, for 30k USD or 20k USD.
We live in exciting times, but every day it feels like we almost live in a SciFi Reality already. Hence, we need to prepare for it on a societal scale.