Recent MIT scholars have come up with a new idea that the rise of automated equipment and the resulting unemployment will be a good thing and may force the federal government to provide some income security for the entire population, but this may take years, even decades.
This economic security is often referred to as the basic income of the people. A large part of Silicon Valley and other technology industry clusters have always welcomed this, in part to ease anxiety and prevent people from worrying that local technological development will cut off their livelihood.
If implemented, the basic income of the entire population would equally cover all citizens and, in theory, provide basic economic security for those with little reliable income. Supporters such as Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Automobile and SpaceX, believe that the basic income of the people is more effective than the current welfare system and is less bureaucratic.
But there is disagreement about when the system will be needed. "We are far from the highest employment levels," Andrew McAfee, co-director of the MIT digital economy program, told a panel of chief information officers at MIT's Sloan school of business on Wednesday. “We are also far from the steady workload that the economy needs to function properly.”
His view is that "post-work conditions are still very immature."
Eric Brynjolfsson, another director of the project, agrees: "there is no shortage of jobs that only people can do. We have come very, very fast, but it will be decades before we enter that era.” But Mr. Brynjolfsson also points out that people need to be willing to be retrained to become marketable and active workers.
The idea that robots or automation will replace millions of human workers has long been a source of anxiety. As has been reported in the media, automation is affecting a wide range of occupations, including truck driver work, which is estimated to involve approximately 1.8 million Americans, as well as aircraft pilots, paralegals, and surgeons.
Optimists believe that while low-end jobs will be automated, people will shift to higher-end jobs that require more technology. Several speakers mentioned the need for people with relevant work experience to train robots and program artificial intelligence tools. But is it really a long-term solution?
Ryan Garipi, co-founder of autopilot company OTTO Motors, thought otherwise.
Mr. Garipi said: "People in the shipping industry may be able to maintain robots or manage the fleet, but I don't think that will lead to a net increase in employment. "His view is that there will be fewer workers needed to keep the world running, so there is really a need for social causes to promote employment.
"Of course, some people who work in freight will become robot repairmen or fleet managers, but I don't think there will be a net increase in employment," he said. In his view, technology will make more work obsolete faster and faster over time.
"Truck drivers can not afford to re-learn," he said. It is a reasonable assumption that 90 % of truck driving will disappear in a few decades. "
That could mean that, in a relatively short time, 1.6 million truckers might need a basic national income.