Over the years there have been many a Science Fiction author, myself included, talking about the future challenges of smart machines, and intelligent robots – one of the biggest problems foreseen of course, is that humans can’t match the rapid evolution of computer technology, it’s getting smarter every day, and at this rate humans will soon be obsolete, replaced, meaning no need for their labor or their decision making skills. Let’s discuss this shall we?
There was an article in Forbes on February 19, 2017 titled: “Alan Turing Predicts Machine Learning and The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Jobs,” by Gil Press. Obviously if Alan Turning was talking about this at the dawn of the computer age, it’s not a newly considered issue, the only difference is that back then it was only being considered, and now today, it’s here.
So now what? What comes next? There have been several concepts floated. I had an idea worthy of mention. People could take their earnings and buy a robot, lease it out to a small business person for a fixed amount weekly, monthly, and use that as income. Many people could co-buy robots, and lease them to companies. Even employee unions could buy industrial robots, and using such a scheme and strategy to help capitalize robots for work – employees slowly join the investment class. Alleviating them of a 40-hour work week, giving them more free time and a higher quality of life.
There was an interesting article in Fortune Magazine titled: “Bill Gates Says Robots Should Be Taxed Like Workers,” by David Z. Morris, Feb 18, 2017. The article stated:
“Microsoft founder Bill Gates makes a rather stunning argument-that robots who replace human workers should incur taxes equivalent to that worker’s income taxes. Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed -If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level. Gates argues taxes, paid by a robot’s owners or makers can be used to help fund labor force retraining. Former factory workers, drivers, & cashiers transition to health services, education, or other fields where human workers will remain vital. Gates even suggests the policy would intentionally ‘slow down the speed of that adoption [of automation] somewhat,’ giving more time to manage the broader transition.”
Here is where Bill Gates is right and wrong: First this is a potential strategy, especially considering government’s rely on income tax and fewer workers working means less income to the government to support the system, society, or country. Second, it might work well in the short-term. Now then, here is why I think this argument is flawed.
Gates cited ‘Heath Services, education’ as potential areas where humans are still needed. Wrong, both of those sectors of our economy are in bubble mode, both ready to burst. Health Care because ObamaCare is about to come to a financial collapse, and health care robots will soon be ubiquitous. Smart wheelchairs, homecare robots, and telerobotics in surgery, and homecare helpers – meanwhile, IBM Watson and new entrants are replacing doctors for diagnosis, and we know HMOs need to cut costs to survive.
Gates’ argument, although interesting and brought forth with positive thought, is also a bad example as education is about to go virtual and higher education is about ready to enter a financial crisis due to student loan debt, runaway legacy costs at colleges and universities, online education competition.
So whereas, Bill Gates has identified a real problem, not an unknown challenge by any means, and as he’s putting his thinking cap on to open up the dialogue on possible solutions, his first-off solutions probably will not work as stated. If you have ideas on how to tackle this coming dilemma please feel free to opine, comment or shoot me an email.
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