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  • Translator: Michele Gianella Reviewer: Muriel de Meo

  • I grew up in a house with domestic violence.

  • Sometimes, as a child,

  • we didn't know from day to day if our mother was going to live or die.

  • If my birthmother - or my stepmother, afterwards - had money,

  • they could have left and taken me with them.

  • Or I'm certain

  • the power dynamic in the house would have been different,

  • as it would've been known,

  • there would've been more respect

  • knowing that they had the freedom, the options to leave.

  • Freedom is what we'll buy ourselves, as a society,

  • if we can implement a universal and unconditional basic income

  • in the form of monthly cash payments going to every citizen.

  • Do we really have freedom if we don't have options to choose,

  • the option to say no to an unsafe environment,

  • whether it be in the family, or the workplace,

  • or against your own government?

  • The means to protest, to stand up,

  • or to walk away, or in some cases to run?

  • Now, I've no regrets about how I was raised.

  • I love my father, and I'm lucky to have two women I can call mother.

  • We've done a lot of healing work to get to where we are today.

  • But I'm really worried

  • because I can see how financial pressures

  • played a triggering and an enabling role in the violence.

  • I'm very worried,

  • because I'm seeing that job displacement

  • is pushing an increasing number of families in Western countries

  • into worse financial pressures than I went through.

  • [Job Displacement]

  • Technological job displacement

  • is when the cost of your job, of your work,

  • trends down to an unfeasible level,

  • maybe because you're competing against machines or offshore labor,

  • so much so that if you get fired, you can't find that job anywhere else.

  • It no longer exists.

  • Families, communities that are relying on your incomes

  • start to shrink and are damaged,

  • because in most cases, people whose jobs are displaced

  • end up taking lower income work or not working at all.

  • I'm here to tell you that technology is the brilliant child of capitalism.

  • It created the middle class, but now it's destroying it.

  • I think universal basic income

  • is how we can preserve and expand the middle class,

  • but only if we can come to see that technology is our shared inheritance.

  • Most of human history was like "Game of Thrones."

  • Most of us lived in miserable conditions,

  • while a few of us hoarded all the wealth

  • and anointed themselves with birthright privileges.

  • The middle class was a creation

  • of the technological advancements of the Industrial Revolution -

  • just a blip in human history, very recent, very fragile -

  • which chased people from low-income work to higher-income work

  • allowing us the means, the income for some comforts,

  • but more importantly,

  • for the political power to shape governments

  • to invest more in the needs of the common man.

  • What we call the modern middle class was created during a period

  • that economists are fond of calling "The Golden Age of Capitalism."

  • This was a period when wages were growing together with productivity.

  • Imagine that.

  • The more businesses needed to sell, the more they needed to hire people

  • to produce the things that they were making,

  • that put upwards demand on wages,

  • which meant people had more money to spend back into those businesses.

  • This was also a period

  • when the top one percent of us were actually seeing a decline in income

  • every year after year, for decades in Western countries.

  • Imagine that.

  • The bigger the economy got,

  • the more of those gains went went to the majority of us.

  • Sounds fair, right?

  • I believe it is this period of inclusive growth

  • that has given us our idea that working hard will get you ahead.

  • Because in that period, it did.

  • For a brief period in human history,

  • the majority of the gains from technological advancement

  • were going to the majority of us.

  • But what if the rise of the middle class is just a coincidence in time,

  • a coincidence for when people were so essential

  • to the work of delivering all these new technological advancements?

  • [Coincidences?]

  • I believe that we saw these coincidences start to break down

  • around the early 1970s,

  • shortly after mainframe computers were making their way

  • into Western companies, corporations everywhere,

  • as manufacturing robots were making their way onto factory floors

  • shortly before, and with the advent, of personal computing.

  • This period of time is called the great decoupling.

  • The great decoupling that decoupled the value of human work from productivity.

  • Clearly, humans were less valuable as computers could do more and more

  • of the repetitive work that careers were made of.

  • And much of the work we do is repetitive and routine.

  • So it's not that over a period of decades that many people were fired,

  • as businesses became more productive, but rather how many were never hired,

  • which created the absence of that upwards pressure on wages

  • we saw during the golden age.

  • Technology created globalization,

  • the global economy, the globalized supply chain,

  • which also put downward pressure on wages

  • because we couldn't complete with hundreds of millions

  • and now billions of people around the world

  • that can do the same work we can for less than can be lived off here.

  • My father and uncle had their careers displaced

  • in Ontario's automotive manufacturing parts sector

  • shortly after China entered the scene in the mid-'90s.

  • We couldn't compete with that, and the businesses that remained,

  • the tool shops that remained after the carnage,

  • were the ones that were managed to automate, to stay competitive.

  • That's why during that period,

  • six times more jobs were lost to automation than trade.

  • But the globalization of today is beyond the reach of tariffs.

  • The globalization of today is about online jobs.

  • Even small businesses can hire virtual assistants in the Philippines

  • for four dollars an hour.

  • Businesses like mine would not have existed 25 years ago.

  • We make income all over the world.

  • We're completely remote, no offices, and because of that, we can hire anywhere.

  • So half of my staff is employed in developing countries.

  • Why? Because I can afford more people that way.

  • [Unions Leverage Weakened]

  • Unions lost their leverage

  • because of the combination of automation and globalization together,

  • and their unions were always pivotal in increasing wage growth.

  • Now I'm really worried,

  • because if you could look at the share of national income,

  • the amount of the income produced every year in the United States -

  • or in any country, any Western country's quite similar -

  • you see the share going to the top one percent of us

  • increasing year after year since the great decoupling.

  • I'm a beneficiary of that as a member of the one percent,

  • and this really bothers me.

  • If you look at the green line, it's going down.

  • The bottom half of us are making less and less and less

  • of the share of national income every year.

  • With that green line going down, we see a parallel line

  • of decreased annual economic growth, a slowing of growth.

  • We also see, I believe, a decrease in political power

  • as governments no longer have to prioritize

  • the needs of common men, of common people.

  • So, it's not at all an exaggeration.

  • If you draw those lines out a few decades into the future,

  • I'm afraid to consider where that will lead us.

  • The top one percent could be making 35 cents of every dollar,

  • the bottom half of us could be making 6 cents.

  • That's not capitalism anymore, folks - that's feudalism.

  • That's right back to the Game of Thrones that we left.

  • That's right back to there'll be

  • a new global peasant class that has smartphones,

  • but a new nobility that has all the power and shapes governments in their image.

  • We should all be very concerned about this.

  • [Artificial Intelligence]

  • Artificial intelligence will just make it go faster,

  • and no one is predicting the creation of a lot of high-paying jobs

  • to replace, to create a new middle class to step into

  • as in the golden age.

  • In fact, many economists are saying

  • we're going to have so many productivity enhancements,

  • but we're going to have a lot more low-paying jobs.

  • Frankly, it is this theory

  • that explains the economics of the last 40 years.

  • The middle class has been hollowing out.

  • The world's top economists in the world

  • are very concerned about the hollowing in middle class,

  • and I'm able to show it to you in pictures.

  • This is a study showing the City of Toronto between 1970 and 2005.

  • In 1970, the yellow represents middle-class neighborhoods,

  • the blue represents high-income neighborhoods,

  • and the red is low-income neighborhoods.

  • 2005, you can see the hollowing in the middle class,

  • mostly low-income neighborhoods.

  • The middle class almost disappeared -

  • they didn't go anywhere, they were displaced.

  • And the blue-income neighborhoods got bigger,

  • as of course there are more high-income jobs,

  • but not enough programming jobs,

  • nor can everyone be a programmer.

  • What we see here, this pattern in Toronto,

  • is replicated across the world,

  • between cities -

  • some cities have been on the losing end of automation and globalization -

  • and between regions.

  • It's funny -

  • look at the blue, imagine you're thinking of the blue states,

  • San Francisco, New York, LA, where all the brain power is going;

  • and the red is the red states,

  • how they've been on the losing end of automation and globalization,

  • and they're angry.

  • We can see the impact of that by seeing an increase in deaths of despair

  • among white middle-aged people in the United States

  • whose jobs have been displaced.

  • The coincidences in time,

  • when more high-income work was being created

  • to replace low-income work,

  • are starting to break down.

  • I think a universal basic income is part of the solution,

  • because it will preserve and in fact expand the middle class.

  • Expand the middle class not in terms of us having two car garages,

  • but things that matter,

  • where everyone can have psychological safety,

  • the ability to make long-term plans,

  • the ability to afford healthy food for their children.

  • We should just implement this basic income and then just wait it out.

  • Wait it out as money is appearing in our bank accounts every month

  • just enough to cover basic needs,

  • provide us with that middle-class way of thinking,

  • because eventually technology makes everything cheaper.

  • Everything from the cost of food, transportation,

  • pretty much consumer goods;

  • it's already been getting cheaper over decades.

  • We can all enjoy a middle-class way of life.

  • And the existing middle class will also be preserved.

  • Why? Because basic income is an economic stimulus.

  • Those who have the least spend the most of the share of what they have.

  • All that money goes right back into the economy,

  • stimulating corporate revenue, stimulating job creation.

  • We can have all this, but we need to see basic income

  • not as a social program that helps people in poor circumstances,

  • but rather a public utility that helps us all.

  • How having a healthy economy is a need common to us all.

  • We should see it as the water in the pipes,

  • circulating money to keep our economy healthy for everyone,

  • expanding the middle class and bringing wellbeing to everyone.

  • So while the first golden age of capitalism was called that,

  • in part because it created the middle class,

  • this next evolution of capitalism may also be called the golden age.

  • Why? Because we will have expanded the middle-class lifestyle for everyone.

  • But only if we can come to see that technology is our shared inheritance.

  • It's meant to uplift everyone.

  • In 1930, the economist John Maynard Keynes -

  • this is a man whose ideas

  • basically created the golden age of capitalism -

  • said that by the year 2030

  • technological productivity should have been so great

  • that by now we're all only working 15 hours a week.

  • There's not much more work to do.

  • He said we could enjoy this life of leisure.

  • Well, how are we going to get there?

  • Basic income will get us there.

  • Why? Because if the economy in the future is creating all these low-income jobs,

  • all these people could choose to work 15 hours a week

  • with one of those