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Translator: Michele Gianella Reviewer: Elisabeth Buffard
Imagine not having to put a limit on yourself,
based on your need for an income.
Not letting the obligation that you have to do this or that,
or you won't have food to put on the table,
or a roof over your head,
control your choices.
If you had the basics taken care of - food, clothing, shelter, health -
what would you spend your days doing?
What's the first thing that comes to your mind?
If you want to start a business,
develop a new idea, devote yourself to your art,
or dedicate your life to helping others,
how much opportunity do you have to do so?
How much time and energy left over
after eight hours at work and two in a commute?
How much freedom,
after bankrupting that business you finally took a chance at starting?
If it fails, that might very well be the end of it.
Your last chance to live your dream, gone into debt and disillusionment.
For those of us who have no fallback, no economic safety net,
the stress that gives rise to
is a burden we carry with us in all that we do.
What a difference it could make, if we were able to set that burden down.
What a difference it would make
if we were able to take a chance and mess up
and know that our bills would still get paid.
Because making mistakes
is far more valuable than we give it credit for.
Failure is inherent in all learning.
The path to mastery is through constant failure
and constant readjustment in response to that failure,
again, and again, and again.
What if all those who failed, and had to go back to their day jobs,
had gotten a second, a third, a fourth, a perpetual chance even.
Where would we be today?
Cancer cured?
Flying cars?
A colony on Mars?
The world that I imagine as a result of this thought experiment
is a world that I believe we can reach.
But the only way to reach it is if people are truly free.
The type of freedom
that comes from equal opportunities and the ability to make choices,
based on not what you have to do to survive,
but what you want to do to thrive.
We could do this by providing a universal basic income to everyone.
Now, in its simplest form, the idea of a universal basic income
means that everyone should receive
an amount of money sufficient to make ends meet,
regardless of their circumstances,
like employment, social status, or even need.
Then, those who are able, or wish to supplement their income,
are then free to take any work that they choose.
The income they receive from that work
would be an addition to their universal basic income,
- after taxes, of course.
The basic income is unconditional
in that nothing you do or don't do will affect you receiving it.
It enshrines the principle that we are all valued members
of these human societies we've created all over the world.
We have a right to share in their collective wealth.
The philosopher Thomas Paine
in 1797 wrote a pamphlet called "Agrarian Justice",
where he makes an argument for universal basic income.
He states that,
"The earth in its natural, uncultivated state
was and ever would have continued to be the common property of the human race."
He goes on to say,
"It is the value of the improvement only, and not of the earth itself,
that is individual property,"
and that "the proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands,
owes to the community a ground rent for the land which he holds."
Now, the idea that we should all receive a dividend from our stake
and our shared ownership of the planet's resources
is a powerful one.
And, I think, an important one for the future.
A future where technological advances with machine learning and automation
are poised to greatly disrupt our societies
and create an ever deepening inequality.
To counter this, we must find a way
to sever the connection between work and income.
I believe that we have a unique opportunity to do just that,
and at the same time
do away with that very stress of having to make ends meet
by working a job that, essentially, a robot could do better.
A report published by Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne of Oxford University
found that 47 percent of US jobs
are at risk of automation in the next decade or two.
In poorer countries like India, 69 percent of jobs are at risk.
In China, 77 percent.
A report published by the World Economic Forum
argues that job losses could be offset by employment growth in other areas,
but comes to the conclusion
that the rise of robots will still lead to a net loss of over five million jobs
in 15 major developed and emerging economies,
by 2020.
These aren't just factory jobs that we're talking about here.
Those jobs are already mostly gone in the western world.
We're talking about cashiers, telemarketers,
jobs in insurance and the food industry, serving, office and administrative jobs,
sales, transportation
- the list goes on.
The power of machine learning
means that the jobs people thought would be safe from automation
are now at risk too.
Katja Grace from Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute
led a study asking the world's leading researchers in artificial intelligence
when they think artificial intelligence
will be better than human beings at a wide range of tasks.
North American researchers estimate that this will happen in 74 years.
But their Asian counterparts see this happening in just 30 years.
However you look at it,
before long AI will outsmart humans in almost everything.
I think 30 years is a reasonable estimate,
but there are important factors in slowing down automation.
One of those is likely the cheapness of labor.
Think how difficult the fight for higher wages will be in the future
where technology offers cheaper and more efficient results than human labor.
In our current economic model
where income, and therefore survival, is dependent on having a job,
workers will have very little leverage to negotiate
as wages will be driven down by the constant threat
of either outsourcing to a cheaper labor force overseas,
or to robots.
In our current economic model, who benefits from automation?
In the past,
the main benefactors of technological advances
have been businesses, industry.
Technology has made the world richer overall, yes,
but not everyone has benefited.
In 2009, the top 1 percent owned 44 percent of the world's wealth.
In 2014, they had 48 percent.
By 2020, it is estimated
that the 1 percent will own 54 percent of global wealth.
Now, this concentration of wealth, it doesn't have to continue,
we can change the system.
For the first time in history, technology could lead us
to the abundance necessary to enrich humanity on an individual level.
But to get there,
we have to be brave and open-minded enough
to dream a better world,
and then take the steps towards that world.
Right now, automation is a threat, but it doesn't have to be.
With a universal basic income, it could be our road to freedom.
But to buy that freedom,
we need to stop running our economy on the ideologies of the past
and start designing the economy of the future.
Now, there are many ways
that we could fund a universal basic income.
Most of them involve taxation reforms
that are sorely needed in our shifting, highly technical, globalized economy.
We could, as Thomas Paine suggested,
start thinking differently about the private ownership of land,
or even the resources that we all need to survive.
We could start thinking differently
about innovation and the ownership of ideas,
or the ownership of data that we give freely to large corporations
who then profit from it.
Or the ownership of technological progress,
which has been driven by centuries of interchanging ideas.
Many of the technical wonders that we enjoy in our everyday lives,
like computers and smartphones,
are based on research
that, to some degree, has been taxpayer funded
and are produced with resources, many of them rare minerals,
that are sourced from the very ground we all walk.
How should these profits be shared?
There's also mounting evidence,
through the many experiments that have been done
with universal basic income all over the world,
that the system leads to lower crime rates,
lower school dropout rates,
fewer accidents and stress related illnesses,
whilst increasing the level of education and entrepreneurship.
These findings,
along with the removal of the burdens and bureaucracy
that comes with our current welfare system,
would lead to massive savings in taxpayer money
that could be diverted into funding a universal basic income.
Now, these are just a few ideas.
They may seem implausible or impossible even,
but where there's a will, there's a way, no?
To better understand where we are today and how we got here,
it is important to delve into the past
and to understand that the systems that frame our lives are man-made.
We can change them.
Our current man-made system
is designed to reach a goal grounded in ideology
that is today at odds with an equitable and sustainable future.
That goal is maximum growth of the economy.
In perpetuity,
Adam Smith, who's been coined The Father of Modern Capitalism,
had a clear idea of how to get there, of how to reach that goal,
by maximizing worker efficiency
and as a result, production and consumption.
By breaking down complex processes into many tiny steps,
each allotted to one worker,
human beings became little more than cogs in the industrial machine,
whose output was an imagined infinite economic growth.
It's interesting to note
that Adam Smith himself pointed out the downfall of a system,
which in effect, employs human beings into mindless drudgery
for half of their waking life
in order for them to make ends meet.
He warned that forcing individuals to perform mundane and repetitive tasks
would lead to an ignorant and dissatisfied workforce.
This was, it seems, an acceptable side effect,
as the goal was, after all, the material wealth of nations
and not an enlightened and content population.
Smith, he believed monetary incentives to be vital to get people to work.
After all, why would anyone choose
the hard and repetitive toil that offered in the factories of his day,
if it wasn't absolutely necessary for survival?
But the preconception was
that human beings are, in essence, lazy and to some degree untrustworthy,
unless incentivized monetarily to be otherwise.
The same school of thought was then applied to our education system,
where instead of money,
exam scores, and degrees, and certificates are used to incentivize learning,
as well as being pre-requisites for graduating and then finding a job.
From an early age, we become accustomed
to working for extrinsic, rather than intrinsic rewards.
Instead of being motivated from that feeling of accomplishment,
when you come to understand concepts and their application in the world,
that eureka moment, when you finally get something.
Instead of that,
we're motivated to memorize words and labels,
repeating them like a parrot,
to pass that exam, get that degree,
and contribute to that common goal, endless economic growth.
What's wrong with that?
Hasn't it served to make all of our lives a lot more wealthy?
Yes, it has.
At least, materially it has.
But it's also led to, as Smith warned, an uninformed, dissatisfied population
forever seeking extrinsic validation and instant gratification.
The perfect consumer!
Pollution of land, sea, and air
are the other fruits of this low cost approach to civilization,
where we consume more with every passing year,
as if this planet were actually expanding in step.
Many of the conditions that make this planet beautiful,
bountiful, and capable of sustaining human life
are facing threats so far gone,
that our current technology might not be able to deal with them,
even if we made a concerted effort to do so,
which we are not.
Despite this,
our measure for success and well-being is still Gross Domestic Product.
The amount of stuff we produce without any regard to actual need,
making our economic system work
against the very systems we rely on for our survival and well-being.
What does this tell us?
Do we not have to rethink our very definition of success?
What makes a nation truly wealthy?
I believe that to find these answers,
we have to be willing to examine our core belief systems
and ask ourselves if they're serving us.
And by us I mean all of us,
because if we're to evolve as a species,
we must rise above the individual interest
and start looking towards the interest of the collective, the whole.
Our world is fast changing.
And with it, the societies and the systems that we've built to sustain us.
Now, these changes will happen with or without our participation.
It's not a question of if, but of when and how.
The how is something we have a little control over,
but only to the extent of how willing we are
to look at the paths ahead, understand the inevitable changes we face,
and to prepare.
We must prepare.
These will be the deciding factors
in whether a particular change will be positive or negative for society.
Now, the how might very well be a universal basic income,
which has the potential to both mitigate unemployment,
greatly accelerate the rate of technological development,
possibly save the planet,
and make people be more fulfilled and happy than they have ever been.
Now, I think that's worth a shot.
Don't you?
Thank you.
(Applause)
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Basic income: enriching humanity on an individual level | Halldora Mogensen | TEDxReykjavik

246 Folder Collection
王惟惟 published on October 19, 2018
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