Scott Santens published on Medium the transcription of a speech he wrote for a keynote session he presented in Sweden in 2017, with the title “It’s time for technology to serve all humankind with Unconditional Basic Income.”
The speech revolves around the impact of automation on society, acting as a disruptor in the labour market, making many jobs obsolete without creating more and better jobs for humans. This is a trend that goes on since the ‘90s: “Yes, it already happened. It’s not in the future. It’s in the past”.
Technological unemployment is a reality, he says, and it’s observable from the decline in occupation of the US population since 2000, the year in wich human labour peaked. Ephemeralization made a lot of middle-skilled jobs obsolete, creating an occupational vacuum filled by low-skilled jobs, as jobs are automated “from the middle out”. This translated in income stagnation for the middle class, growth in incomes monthly variance and rising income inequality. All factors which ultimately affect the wellbeing of individuals and society as a whole, producing a costant sense of insecurity in the population. But, according to Santens, we shouldn’t fear automation:
“We have the opportunity to forever free humanity from drudgery and toil, but as long as people require money to live, and jobs are the primary way of obtaining money, people will fear automation.”
Technologic unemployment ends up hindering productivity itself, because automation of the medium skilled jobs makes workers shift toward the low skilled ones, increasing the offer of low paid work and thus making automation less convenient and postponable.The answer resides in decoupling work from income, through the introduction of an Unconditional Basic Income, a solution which would make income circulate from top to bottom. It would eliminate the necessity to work in order to survive, thus driving very many undesirable jobs out of the labour market and making automation more impellent. With a better distribution of wealth, full automation could be reached, eliminating many unnecessarry and unsatisfactory jobs, and society would be ultimately able to floursih. Scott Santens puts this clearly:
“…how much are we holding civilization back by allowing impoverishment to continue? How much more could we accomplish as a species, if we made the choice, that’s right, THE CHOICE, to abolish poverty and extreme inequality forever, by simply investing in humanity — in each other?”
More information at:
Scott Santens, “It’s Time for Technology to Serve all Humankind with Unconditional Basic Income”, Medium, April 13th 2018