Our Automated Future

Ford worries that we are headed toward an era of “techno-feudalism.” He imagines a plutocracy shut away “in gated communities or in elite cities, perhaps guarded by autonomous military robots and drones.” Under the old feudalism, the peasants were exploited; under the new arrangement, they’ll merely be superfluous. The best we can hope for, he suggests, is a collective form of semi-retirement. He recommends a guaranteed basic income for all, to be paid for with new taxes, levelled, at least in part, on the new gazillionaires.

To one degree or another, just about everyone writing on the topic shares this view. Jerry Kaplan proposes that the federal government create a 401(k)-like account for every ten-year-old in the U.S. Those who ultimately do find jobs could contribute some of their earnings to the accounts; those who don’t could perform volunteer work in return for government contributions. (What the volunteers would live off is a little unclear; Kaplan implies that they might be able to get by on their dividends.) Brynjolfsson and McAfee prefer the idea of a negative income tax; this would provide the unemployed with a minimal living and the underemployed with additional cash.

via Our Automated Future — New Yorker

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