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What Do You Suggest for the Post-Employment Economy?

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Let’s go ahead and say this guy is overstating the case. If it’s even close to what he projects, then how do we deal with this as a society?

It is no longer in question whether all jobs will be automated, the head of the Institute for New Economic Thinking said Tuesday. The real question rests in when that automation will occur and which sectors of society will be affected sooner than others.

“Today, it would be possible to automate 50% of all work activities, and by about 2060, we’ll definitely be capable in physical possibility have reached a 100%,” said Adair Turner.

Turner, who is also the author of “Between Debt and the Devil,” said that researchers will soon develop artificial intelligence as smart as humans and eventually create “super intelligent” technology that will outperform human beings.

According to Turner, occupations that are currently highly automatable include those in the sector of accommodation and food services, as well as manufacturing such as sewing machine operators and sorters of agricultural products. Meanwhile, those in the education service or professional sectors such as legislators and doctors cannot yet be automated with the current technology.

To offset the phenomenon where increased automation will largely benefit the wealthy, Turner proposed a few policies that could improve the welfare of people’s lives overall.

He suggested instituting redistributive taxation on real property wealth, designing more cities as attractive places to live and adopting universal basic income to ensure adequate pay for basic services.

As I’ve said before and will say again, universal basic income is a step in the right direction if it adds to our current welfare state instead of replacing it, but it has major problems, including the massive cost, the fact that even if you gave people $10,000 a year that millions wouldn’t have enough money to pay their yearly rent without work supplementing it, and it blithely ignores the centrality of work to American culture. For all UBI advocates, who often remind me of secular versions of Christian fundamentalists, there’s a lot of waving this away and talking about how we need to be freed from work. This completely ignores the reality of how work operates within American culture. This is why I support a federally guaranteed job, with UBI supplements for those who can’t work. But whatever we do to figure out how to deal with this massive upcoming unemployment, we need to start taking it seriously now. To ignore it will create a much deeper crisis later.

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