The age of automation and artificial intelligence has arrived, and there’s no turning it back. While this is mostly good news for businesses and technology enthusiasts, it mainly spells out bad news for workers whose jobs can be automated and who can be replaced by robots in the near future. As a result, a lot of people are worrying that AI wave will leave them unemployed and struggling to feed themselves and their families.
However, tech mogul and Microsoft founder Bill Gates seems to have the answer to these worries: tax the robots.
Taxes and Automatons
It might seem ludicrous to think that robots would fret about VAT and income taxes, but Gates thinks that taxing them is a good idea. For instance, if a human worker in a factory is replaced by a robot, the automaton should be charged the same amount of taxes that the human paid when he was employed.
Gates believes that robot companies will not mind if they are charged with taxes for their automated workers. For one thing, they will be earning higher revenues since their laborers will be 100 percent efficient (something that humans can’t achieve) and have a steady stream of productivity. Companies will also save a significant amount of money since their robots won’t need sick leave, maternity or paternity leave, and retirement plans and pensions. With their increased earnings and lower overhead costs, businesses won’t find it hard to pay their robot taxes.
What to Do with the Money
The taxes collected from the robots could then be used to train the displaced laborers for other jobs, especially those that require human empathy. Some of them can work as teachers, which will allow schools to have smaller class sizes and ensure each child will receive one-on-one training. Others can be trained to become special education experts and assist children with special needs. Still others can be educated as nurses, nursing aides, and caregivers and provide high-quality healthcare to the sick and the elderly.
Gates points out that charging taxes can help slow down the advancement of automation. This might seem like a strange statement coming from a tech entrepreneur, but Gates is right in that the spread of automation needs to be controlled, especially in terms of its effects on job displacement. This way, the government and businesses can work together to create transition programs for displaced workers and minimize the negative impact that automation will have on families and even entire communities.
And yes, the government should get involved. Gates states that the government must play an active role in controlling the speed of automation and labor displacement instead of just relying on businesses to do everything. This way, inequity won’t be so rampant, and those in the low-income bracket won’t become even more disadvantaged.
Pair It with Universal Basic Income
Forbes contributor Ian Morris points out that robot taxation can also be merged with the concept of universal basic income. This can be funded by the amount collected from automation taxes and will ensure that everyone will have a monthly income that they can use to fulfill their basic needs. Morris agrees, though, that the country and the entire world will have to go through a painful transition before a balance can be achieved between automation and labor displacement.