Though the concept has not gained significant traction among U.S. politicians, nearly half of Americans support the idea, and that percentage is likely to grow.
Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a concept in which all citizens receive a set income, no matter their occupation, financial history, housing, demographics, or any other qualifier. It is a concept that has been lauded by people like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg and criticized by people like Joe Biden. The hotly debated concept may seem far-fetched, but Scotland is already trialing a program to test it.
In the U.S., the town of Stockton, California is planning to roll out a trial of its own, slated to begin in August of this year. And according to recent polling, plenty of Americans think this could be a good way to combat job losses due to automation.
In a 2018 Gallup and Northeastern University poll, 48 percent of Americans agreed that a universal income program is a positive solution.
But the news is not as rosy as it appears on its face:
While just below half are in favor, the majority disagreed about the use of UBI. More so, while an overwhelming 65 percent of Democrats support the concept of a universal income, only 28 percent of Republicans do, according to this poll.
And beyond agreeing on whether or not to implement such a program, Americans would have to agree on how to pay for it.
Only 45 percent of those polled would be willing to pay higher taxes to fund such a program. Interestingly enough, however, 80 percent of those who are in favor of a universal income also expect that business who benefit from artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous technologies should pay for it.
This line of thinking aligns with the concept of a “robot tax,”something that Bill Gates overwhelmingly supports. The thinking behind this is that, because a human worker pays taxes, automation could lead to both job loss and a severe blow to government finances.
In the meantime, automation continues to enter industry at an almost dizzying pace, bringing with it both positive and negative impacts.
Presently, 77% are “mostly positive” or “very positive” about AI’s impact, yet it’s clear that automation will lead to job losses at rates we have never experienced before. While not everyone agrees on the prospect of UBI, solutions must be found.