We usually save our trends and predictions for the end of the year but we wanted to set a reminder for ourselves for later by discussing a new bubbling policy trend, which is something we tend to avoid.
We’ll make an exception for Universal Basic Income, which is getting some consistent attention at top-tier media even as it isn’t setting the world on fire. According to the New York Times, “The basic idea behind it is that handing out unconditional cash to all citizens, employed or not, would help reduce poverty and inequality, and increase individual liberty.”
It’s being tried in a few places, including Finland, and the reason is that artificial intelligence (or, if you prefer, machine learning — the terms of often used interchangeably), automation (also known as robotics but could also include driverless trucks and cars) will irrevocably change the nature of work.
Combined with the gig economy, those other trends will redefine what it means to be able to earn a living.
If drones are better than humans at spotting sharks, and can protect lives that way, they certainly may replace us in other jobs and capacities.
This is where UBI comes in. It gives people some money to live. It’s not welfare but would help to mitigate being pushed into lower-wage jobs if your job is replaced by a robot.
As we approach Labor Day, we’re not going to debate the pros or cons of UBI. Our point is, however, that UBI is likely to discussed more as we head into 2018 because fears of being replaced by AI and robots is growing — see our trends for 2018, to be issued in Dec. — and we think that UBI is a topic that will be discussed by people who aren’t afraid of the rise of the machine age but still want to help insulate others in what could be a “painful economic transition,” as Fortune describes it.
We will write up more in Dec. but in the meantime, let us know what you think.