The rapid advance of computer technology in recent decades has produced a vast array of intelligent machines that far outstrip the human mind in speed and capacity.
As automation displaces human labor, a universal basic income (UBI) plan may seem like the perfect solution. Introduce UBI, so that displaced workers have a basic income to fall back on. The idea seems simple enough.
But why wait for UBI to mitigate the impacts of automation? The proposal is attractive (a UBI could eliminate poverty, for example, and that's no feat to underappreciate), yet some advocates of the plan may accept the current trend of technological advancement in the workplace too fatalistically. They accept that artifical intelligence could eventually obviate the need for human labor.
In her article with UC Berkeley's Labor Center, Annette Bernhardt challenges this assumption. Rather than allow innovation to take the lead or wait for a UBI system to mitigate its effects, she argues, humans should regulate the impacts of technological advancement on our workforce. Bernhardt proposes three strategies of interventionism of varying degrees, whereby we create "oversight structures" to assess the social impacts of tech.
One current example of oversight is the Partnernship on Artificial Intelligence to Benefit People and Society, a consortium formed in 2016 by major tech companies such as Google, Amazon, IBM, and Facebook. The partnership aims to assess whether its constituents' practices promote social good. But, as Bernhardt notes, the communities and workers who are ultimately affected by the tech industry's decisions do not have a seat at this proverbial Round Table. Shouldn't their partnership, she asks, listen to citizens' voices, too?
No matter where you tip on the balance, Bernhardt's ideas are important to consider. Read them here:
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