AI = UBI: The Coming Dystopia

Earlier this year, Goldman estimated that one-fourth of current work tasks in the US could be automated by A.I. On a global scale, generative A.I. "could expose the equivalent of 300 million full-time jobs to automation," the bank's Joseph Briggs and Devesh Kodnani wrote, in a kind of first pass at quantifying the potential for the new technology to replace us on the job. Although Briggs and Kodnani also highlighted the upside for humanity from A.I. adoption, and while they were careful to avo

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17 thoughts on “AI = UBI: The Coming Dystopia

  1. Unless we want a Dickensian nightmare scenario, UBI (or some other type of automatic stabilizer) has to become a standard.
    Every one of the handful of UBI experiments showed that people ended up working at least as much while on UBI as without; people educated themselves, pursued interests (hobbies) that then led to innovation and entrepreneurship.
    We should start by paying post-secondary students like we pay the military personnel.

  2. UBI could be construed as Hyman Minsky’s suggestion that government be the employer of last resort.

    On a second note, who is going to be right when AI says one thing and a human says another. Will AI become humanity’s new infallible religious text of choice.

  3. AI is cool, it helps me write code faster, its going to get better, but it ain’t that smart.

    If you need to get support with your telecom, its already annoying “af” to work with a chat bot in order to speak to a human — generative AI isn’t going to make it meaningfully better, sorry. There will be a reverberation.

  4. UBI is fine, but programs like the WPA and CCC seem better. There is so much infrastructure decay in this country, and so much untapped potential.

    100 years ago my little corner of New England had high-density housing, trolleys servicing nearly every street, and city parks designed by Olmsted himself — beautiful places with manicured lawns, fountains, paths, follies, etc. Now the housing is decaying (and costs a fortune to remediate all the lead and asbestos), the trolleys have been replaced with a bus service that you only take if you are poor, desperate, and too impaired to walk; and the parks are overgrown timber lots.

    There is an enormous demand for labor, it’s just invisible to us because we’ve all been stuck in a hypercapitalist hellscape for 50 years and have forgotten that labor is useful even when it isn’t turning a profit. More coaches for kids sports instead of relying on volunteers, more teachers so they can teach instead of babysit, more public transit in areas where it isn’t yet profitable, more green energy buildouts, more onshoring of customer service, etc etc.

    I mean, the Star Trek economy is the aspirational goal here, right? Not Blade Runner.

    If there’s one thing MMT should make clear it’s that we’re arguing about resource allocation. I can say with confidence that a community with the money to employ people to improve the very community they live in is going to suddenly have much lower rates of mental health crises and drug abuse, too.

    It should also be pretty clear that in a world where most jobs are being lost to intelligent computers, it makes zero sense for the cost to be so high to make humans more intelligent. Public universities need to quadruple in size with free or near-free tuition.

    There are plenty of ways out of this, if enough of us make a loud enough racket. We all know what the alternative is, because it’s happened for millennia — political instability, increasingly concentrated wealth, revolt, yadda yadda. Maybe not this year or the next, but that’s the trajectory, from the Gracchi to Maidan. Either we should all climb as high up on this decaying social ladder as we can to get a good view of the inevitable conflagration, or we should try to repair this rotten piece of shit so it’ll hold together for a few more generations.

    Begging anyone here over 60 to not just piss down off the ladder as they ascend to nirvana.

  5. I have my doubts that the human programming of AI in all cases in all countries will follow the same rules and projected outcomes. If there are some bad actors it will force all to move along the same road. Where that will lead us probably isn’t a good scenario.

  6. 0.0 chance our right wing friends in the USA will ever allow that kind of “creeping socialism” to be enacted. We’ll increase spending on “law enforcement” instead.

  7. Wait a second, all the sudden we would not need a dependable supply of consumers? A police state to herd the homeless toward some regional system of mass graves? Those would be bad for business.

  8. Now that corporations are people and money is speech, it appears our politicians have largely made their choice. I’m not too optimistic they will constrain corporations in any meaningful way as long as those foundations remain true. Moreover, the tailwinds to even further inequality are petering out. AI combined with a new obsession for fiscal rectitude may be just the medicine to help push the financial “market share” of the top 10% all the way up to the red line. We might not even have to bother with any more high bracket tax cuts or pesky unreliable elections. Optimal efficiency!

  9. I’m reminded of a related-ish comment I saw on Twitter (of all places) once. I’m highly paraphrasing, but it went something like this:

    “People get bent out of shape about the children of rich people becoming artists, taking away jobs from others which they could never aspire to unless daddy was paying the bills. I think they have it completely backwards: freed from the need to worry about where next month’s rent check is going to come from, people naturally turn towards art.”

    Job automation need only be dystopian if society leaves behind those whose jobs are automated. Granted we don’t have a great track record in that regard, but I for one am optimistic about our future AI overlords. A beautiful future awaits.

  10. I hate to risk myself on a position on this subject, but this thread is not really a very good start. People will NOT go gently into this good night. This discussion about our future is not a ideological or philosophical one. It is a gritty, “that ain’t going to happen except over my dead body” discussion. I first read R.U.R. in 1957. Never able to forget it. Ever since then I’ve been watching to see what was really going to happen if the seemingly inevitable future ever were to arise. Well, we’ve seen 1984 and now we’re looking at the real revolution. People got to eat and the economy won’t function unless people have a steady income of at least today’s average. As the (*##?) CA governor just figured out, he can’t possibly come up with the money to give even the most ideologically deserving a free $1.5 mil. When we can’t even agree on raising the debt ceiling to pay what we already owe, how does anyone suppose we are going to give $60k free incomes to a quarter of the workforce, let alone most of the population?

  11. I’ve always rather liked the idea that UBI be tied to a minimum level of community service. When people actually realise that welfare recipients aren’t all cheats or that old age can be a bit shit, the barriers to intra-societal trust start to crumble.

  12. Today’s trivia question for those inclined to shrug all of this off: what company is the third largest employer in the USA? (hint Walmart and Amazon are the top two.)

      1. Bingo!! Sadly for us little guys, it’s privately held. Their business is already booming and is bound to get even larger if AI displaces too many workers.

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