Amazon just announced their new cashier-free convenience store. Amazon Go will launch in Seattle in early 2017 and will let shoppers come and go without having to interact with anyone. The new Amazon Go store uses an array of sensors to track customers’ movements and can also recognize what you pick up. The store can tell if you hold onto that item, or decide to put it back on the shelf. Everything you keep gets added to your amazon cart which will be charged when they leave the store.
All of this technology already exists, Amazon is just putting all the pieces together. Those pieces, alongside their deep learning and A.I. software, should create the future of tomorrow, today. It will be interesting to see this technology spread to other daily places like gas stations and grocery stores. This could be the beginning of the series of technological breakthroughs that end up with humans basically not doing anything.
Theoretically, A.I. software can advance to the point that it beats a human in every task imaginable, including feeling emotion and instincts. Think about it this way, a human can only spend so much time awake before you have to sleep. During that awake time, you can’t devote 100% of your time to learning. Take that in comparison to a computer which can learn at super speeds nearly 100% of the time.
A.I. unfortunately has a lot of catching up to do, so it can’t teach itself just yet. When it can, the system could run continually and easily surpass human intelligence in no time. It will all depend on what we do now that determines how this will end up effecting the world. Universal Basic Income could shape the future for many countries.
So now that you know what Amazon GO is, here’s a bit of information on Universal Basic Income.
That info graph should explain almost everything you need to know about basic income, but here is some more background info if you are interested.
Basic Income has a few different names, Unconditional Basic Income, Citizen’s Income, Basic Income Guarantee, and Universal Basic Income (UBI) to name a few. No matter the wording Basic Income refers to a “form of social security in which all citizens or residents of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government or some other public institution, in addition to any income received from elsewhere.”
It basically brakes down to a government supplying an amount over the poverty line to it’s citizens on a timely basis. Most places currently experimenting with basic income give out payments on a monthly basis. The government must also give the same amount no matter how much the person earns at work. There are added amounts paid out for things like a disability or social security.
I would structure my own Universal Basic Income slightly differently from what I’ve seen others do. I would tax the companies that are using A.I., capable of replacing workers, by the number of employees replaced. This wouldn’t be an amount so high that it would keep those human-ran jobs, but it would produce a recurring revenue stream to fund UBI. So as the technology grows, so will that fund; meaning in the beginning, the fund could not sustain an entire country but it could help fund the unemployment in that area. When this scales and goes beyond the single store, the fund will become large enough to have expanded across the entire country and be paid out to every person. That would not be the only tax that would fund UBI, I would also increase the taxes of anyone who makes over $10 million a year. The vast majority of America is well under the $10 million threshold, which would make opposition to this additional tax relatively small.
Now that we know what basic income is, how does that have anything to do with Amazon GO? If Amazon GO is a wild success, we could easily see these stores in every mall or neighborhood corner in the next ten years. This type of automation will end up taking away millions of jobs from the market leading to extremely high unemployment numbers. When that happens, the government will have no choice but to implement this type of policy or risk its cities falling into chaos. The world will one day reach a point where humans are not necessary for our own survival, but today we just have to plan for what happens when some of the jobs are gone. The best way we can prepare for that would be to implement a basic income model.
Everyone in the US will be sure to say that it may work in smaller European countries or even in Africa but it will never work in America. Well you would be wrong–Alaska has had it’s own basic income since 1982! Many people have probably heard that you get paid to live in Alaska and it is entirely true. Alaska benefits so largely from its oil production and other investments, that it distributes those profits to its citizens. Ten-thousand jobs can be attributed to their basic income because of the increased spending power that Alaskans’ experience every October. Although that amount went down this year, the average payout is around $2,000. This helps many families, especially right before the holiday season. You can see that this will help working class family’s get the things they need or save money for a larger purchase.
In the end, the world will have to evolve with technology. No matter what we do, technology will outpace human learning. We need to learn to embrace the change and use technology to better our lives, rather than bury our heads in the sand. A.I. taking jobs is already happening and some form of UBI will have to be implemented to reduce the economic impact of those jobs being lost. No matter what happens, the future of technology should not be scary to anyone, but rather the greatest opportunity for mankind to evolve and experience new worlds.
Go to Futurism to see the amazing infographic used in this post, it is everything you need to know about UBI.