Working solutions

Let's see how we get along when all our jobs become redundant

11 September 2017 - 08:13 By Yolisa Mkele
CHIPS, THEY'RE COMING Many of the jobs that currently exist will soon be partly or wholly automated
CHIPS, THEY'RE COMING Many of the jobs that currently exist will soon be partly or wholly automated

The world is becoming increasingly automated and in most cases that's a good thing. Automated maps mean fewer lost people and automated camera settings mean everyone thinks they're Annie Leibovitz. But what happens when the automation hits you where it hurts most, your pocket?

It's estimated that many of the jobs that currently exist will soon be partly or wholly automated. Driverless cars will negate the need for Uber and metered taxi drivers, advances in robotics will make many mining jobs redundant, and nifty AI is forecast to put a fair number of journalists out of work because robots are smarter and faster, and less biased. Well, we'll see about that.

So what do we do when technology advances to the point that it can do most of our jobs without us? One solution is Universal Basic Income and the Scots are the latest to toy with the idea.

UBI is basically a system in which every citizen of a particular country or area gets a fixed, no-strings-attached income from the government. Cyril Ramaphosa would get the same R6000 stipend as the guy who splashes dirty water on your windscreen, and both would be free to spend it as they please.

The idea is that once you free people from the burden of having to survive, they'll become more productive because they'll being doing things they actually want to do.

There are glaring issues with the idea. How would it be paid for? Other critics of UBI say giving everyone free money would encourage indolence and, besides, why would the rich need any more money?

That's where Scotland comes in. Along with Finland, Hawaii, parts of Canada, India and a couple of Kenyan villages, the haggis- eating part of the UK is looking at various forms of UBI to see what works. Some have suggested UBI in place of government spending on things like social security.

Initial results from these experiments seem to run contrary to the idea that free money will make everyone lazy. Studies have found that giving everyone free money leads to better health, wealth and opportunity among the most disadvantaged of those communities, and even grows the economy.

But it's not all sunshine and roses. We are nowhere near seeing how UBI would operate on a large scale, funding it remains contentious, and even the results of some studies championing it have been hotly contested.

Whether you're for or against UBI, we are fast approaching an age when human labour will be a thing of the past. If we have the appropriate systems in place this may usher in a period of human creativity and prosperity the world hasn't ever known. If not, we may all be in sh*t.