Elon Musk reckons the robot revolution is inevitable and it’s going to take all the jobs.
For humans to survive in an automated world, he said that governments are going to be forced to bring in a universal basic income—paying each citizen a certain amount of money so they can afford to survive. According to Musk, there aren’t likely to be any other options.
“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” he told CNBC in an interview. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”
The idea behind universal basic income is to replace all the different sources of welfare, which are hard to administer and come with policing costs. Instead, the government gives everyone a lump sum each month—the size of which would vary depending on political beliefs—and they can spend it however they want.
Switzerland, a country with high wages and high employment, recently held a referendum on giving its people 2,500 Swiss francs (£2,065) per month, plus 625 francs (£516) per child. It was ultimately rejected by a wide margin by the country’s fairly conservative electorate, who generally thought it would give people too much for free.
President Obama has also floated the idea in a confab with Wired: “Whether a universal income is the right model—is it gonna be accepted by a broad base of people?—that’s a debate that we’ll be having over the next 10 or 20 years.”
Musk isn’t necessarily downbeat on the automated future, however. He thinks that in the future “people will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things,” and they’ll “certainly have more leisure time.” And then, he added, “we gotta figure how we integrate with a world and future with a vast AI. Ultimately,” he said, “I think there has to be some improved symbiosis with digital super intelligence.”