Elections aside, the biggest news on the Internet seems to be that Elon Musk announced he’s in favor of providing people with a guaranteed “Basic Income”.
The idea is, we can do away with a lot of boring and soul-deadening jobs through automation, and just hand out the resulting wealth in the form of free food and housing and medicine for everyone that wants it. If someone wants a limousine, they’ll need to work for it; otherwise, your life is all pre-paid. Money free for the asking, and no work required.
This seems like a pipe dream, but what folks don’t realize is that it’s actually highly practicable. Even now, it takes somewhere around three percent of the workforce to provide us with the necessities of life: feeding us, clothing us, providing housing and fresh water. Add six percent more and we can all go to restaurants for dinner.
What does the remainder of our society do? Well, there’s lawyers, insurance companies to protect us from the lawyers, prison guards (to protect us from the lawyers who got caught), politicians (who are just lawyers who get bribed by the insurance companies), commodities brokers (to invest the lawyers’s money — you get the idea), salespeople, people in advertising, and folks that “work for the government”. And, lest you think that lawyers are the root of all evil, just consider this: Middle management alone accounts for over twelve percent of the workforce — and we all know half their time is spent sucking up to their bosses and the other half justifying their existence by making their junior employees miserable. We could automate that job with ease. Mechanized cattle prods would cover the one half and robotic sex dolls the other.
So yes, I think this is potentially a wise idea. We could start by getting rid of the lawyers first and then trim down from there.
The only trouble is, well, us. Apparently, as humans, we’ve all got the delusion that we need to work in order to prove ourselves worthwhile. Studies have shown what happens to people who don’t work to justify their existence, and it’s not pretty. Trust me on this: Six months of guaranteed minimum income and we’ll all be growing neckbeards and becoming internet trolls.
Yes, neckbeards. Yes, even the ladies. It’s horrifying; I know.
So the solution, of course, is to pretend that there are certain vital jobs that require humans to go outside and do things for, say, eight to ten hours a week. Landscaping, or street sweeping; crossing guard. Traffic cop. Used car salesman. Home nurse. Something you kinda have to shave and look respectable in order to do.
The big winner in all this would be our schools. We could have three times as many teachers at a time, and each could take, for example, half a day of class three times a week. Put one in overall charge of each classroom and one in charge of each subject, and the computers and machines can prepare the lesson plans while the humans go in and talk about all the things they’ve done.
For example, they could talk about how, in the Dark Ages, they were employed as mass tort lawyers who sued middle managers on behalf of speculators who lost money in their insurance company investments…
NOTE: When first writing this, I fell foul of the difference between a Guaranteed Minimum Income and a Basic Income. It’s interesting; read up on it if you like.