Yang sees automation as inevitable and even beneficial, with medical AI leading to improved patient coverage, for instance, and self-driving cars leading to fewer crashes. Some of these proposals might sound outlandish; will many couples want an AI life coach to handle their marriage counseling?
Rather than resisting our robot replacements or counterparts, Yang wants to restructure the economy for a future where they prevail. “I love technology, I love innovation, I love progress,” Yang said in an interview. “What I don’t love is an economy that’s going to kick millions of Americans to the curb, and make it so that a relatively small handful of companies and individuals enjoy the benefits of all of this innovation.”
In Yang’s view, $1,000 a month—roughly the federal poverty line for a single-person household—is enough to scrape by, but not enough to lure people away from work. He calls it a “Freedom Dividend.” Yang is stumping up his own money in demonstration, offering a year of payments to one family in New Hampshire and one family in Iowa.
It’s inevitable that we’ll have to give people basic income eventually, once most repetitive laborious jobs are automated. Might not happen next year but it needs to enter the debate.