The responsibility of the tech-industry? Providing unconditional basic income.

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Just read a post by Calcanis on Pando, one of the best tech-blogs at the moment. He makes a point about which responsibility the tech-industry has for the people it has made redundant. [1]

We are not talking of the Snapchats, Instagrams or facebooks of the world here – these make no one redundant. We are talking of applications in the fields of business management, data mining and automation in general. I always felt uncomfortable with the self-perception of SV that it would in any case change the world and everything in it for the better.

I don’t think it does necessarily. Most of the businesses which offer software tools for companies to do something faster, easier or cheaper ultimately are targeted towards making one or more people inside the company redundant. In fact that would be the ultimate sales-pitch for a software company: “Rent my software for 100€ per month, because it does what employee x does now, but for a fraction of the price!” For the client this would be a no-brainer and happily accepted.

But it doesn’t make the world better. It removes employees from their jobs. It helps accumulate money around people who already have money, because money isn’t spread around society via employees any more.

We are only starting to see the outcome of letting manufacturing businesses move to the East right now: more and more people are  becoming unemployed, unable to keep up with a more services-oriented society and the income-gap growing bigger and bigger. I don’t even think we have reached the peak of that change already – so what do you think will happen as soon as the services-based industries are impacted by automation through software?

In the mid- to long-term future people will become redundant in being productive for a living on a large scale altogether. That will leave a large part of society unemployed while a small portion of society will be richer than ever in human history. In order to keep society stable two ways will unfold: suppressing the uncontent masses violently or proving an unconditional basic income, knowing that the money will accumulate around the distributing class through consumption again anyway.

Of course this will not be the tech-industries obligation alone. Society as a whole will have to commit to this change – but the tech-industry and their leaders will play an important role in that. So instead of preparing to take the first road (= “suppression”) by hating against the poor people living in the streets of SF today, the leaders in tech should start to understand where everything is going and get comfortable with the thought of redistribution – be it as UBI or any other way (see Bill Gates, Warren Buffett etc).

That’s their responsibility for making employees redundant.


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