Universal Basic Income

A thought provoking piece in the New York Times discussed what our future will be like once widespread automation has replaced much of human work.

One plan for dealing with the situation is known as “universal basic income”. Under the scheme the government would provide each adult about $1,000 a month to cover the costs of housing, food, health care and other basic needs. Working in the information and automation industries would presumably provide more comfortable salaries, but for those individuals who could not, or who did not, wish to work in the few avaiable industries the U.B.I. would provide a social safety net.

U.B.I. would be aimed at easing the dislocation caused by technological change. Rather than a job-killing catastrophe, tech supporters of U.B.I. consider machine intelligence to be something like a natural bounty. The country has struck oil, and now it can hand out checks to each of its citizens.

But would such a scheme be affordable ? And would people find fulfilling pursuits to bring them happiness in the absence of work-related commitments ? There is no doubt that humanity is heading for a heavily automated future, thus the possibility of peace and happiness may depend on schemes such as U.B.I. once the traditional jobs have become matters only for history books.