Basic Income Has Not Been Debunked
David Rotman, via Technology Review (11 March 2016), described basic income as a “danger.” David Rotman wrote:
“Eduardo Porter […] does an excellent job of debunking this utopian scenario.”
On this occasion I won’t fully criticise Rotman’s viewpoint. Instead I will focus on Rotman’s idea that Eduardo Porter did “…an excellent job of debunking this utopian scenario.”
Eduardo Porter’s supposed “excellent job” was clearly flawed at an early stage regarding the description of basic income as a “quasi-magical tool.” LOL, really!? Truly magical?!
There is actually nothing seemingly “magic” about basic income. Basic income is merely a rational and futuristic step onward from current Welfare. Magic, according to Google, is “the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.”
Sadly if people cannot raise rational objections to a premise, they often resort to smear-words to help their flawed criticism. It’s the phenomenon where a person may disingenuously label a premise magic, voodoo hoodoo, mumbo jumbo, or a religion. I am surprised the labels cranks and oddballs or “cult” were not applied regarding basic income and its supporters.
It is also pertinent to note the word “debunking” is very loaded. It implies unwarranted negativity (more guilt by association) to the idea being criticised.
The next gem in Porter’s “excellent job” is a reference to The Jetsons:
“Even George Jetson takes his briefcase to work every day.”
Porter is using The Jetsons to substantiate the idea that it is impossible for all jobs to be abolished by technology, because you know… The Jetsons, a cartoon fiction, where George takes his briefcase to work! Oh so excellent!
Porter’s smearing (negative association), using fiction, progresses next by linking the total absence of jobs to Brave New World and Animal Farm:
“It made me think of Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” or George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.””
It seems Porter has penchant for fiction; seen in the following quote. Real fiction (The Jetsons etc) is valid to criticise reality, but very oddly if reality resembles fiction then all of a sudden the supposed fiction cannot be trusted. Porter’s usage of fiction is logically inconsistent:
“If the idea of robots taking over sounds like science fiction, the idea of the American government agreeing to tax capitalists enough to hand out checks to support the entire working class is in an entirely new category of fantasy.”
So if something sounds like fiction (or fantasy) it must be fiction?
Note also the “fantasy” smear in the previous quote.
Can you see the gross absurdity of how Porter uses fiction to substantiate and dismiss a point? Porter thinks basic income sounds like science fiction, or fantasy, but Porter uses fantasy-fiction to support the supposed debunking. From Porter’s viewpoint fantasy-fiction is simultaneously plausible and implausible for determining the validity of real-life issues.
People often think fiction has validity to accurately describe real-life, but they need to remember fiction is fabrication; it is imagination. The Terminator story doesn’t mean it will really happen, but people can assume novels or fictional films are scientific oracles accurately predicting the future. Imagine I write a story where I declare I own all the money in the world (perhaps a rebel AI helps me attain all the money). My declaration of supreme wealth does not mean my declaration is true. People need to look at facts not fictions.
Porter ends by stating: “Little in these dynamics suggests a high-tech utopia — or dystopia, for that matter — in the offing.”
While it is not yet utopia, I think we do have a massive example of positive progress. Note how the first mobile (cell) phones in 1983 were priced at $3,900, whereas in the year 2016 vastly superior phones can be bought (at the bottom end of 2016 phones) for as little as $10. Call charges are also reasonably cheap too. It’s not merely phones that have become very cheap. I recently bought a 64GB Micro SDXC card for only $17, which is a massive price decrease, with enormously increased capacity, from the first flash memory cards or sticks. Laptops and PCs are also very cheap. If we follow this progress trend I think utopia is a very realistic proposition. Not only will there be no jobs, I think products will continue reducing in price until a time (no later than 2045) when they are free.
The reality is, putting aside fictitious debunking, robots will eventually do all the jobs. On route to everything being free, to counter technological-unemployment, basic income (a subsistence amount of free money) is a very wise method to smooth the transition.
On a positive note at least Porter didn’t invoke the Hollywood fiction of Terminator to justify bogus AI fears.
By Singularity Utopia – 14 March 2016
* hero image used from https://www.windowssearch-exp.com/images/search?q=Helping+Hand+Up&FORM=RESTAB
March 16, 2016 at 4:09 pm
It seems not a single sucker on the planet recalls how the 8-hour work came about!
March 17, 2016 at 4:27 am
Good point Theophanes Raptis, thanks.
March 17, 2016 at 4:26 am
On the issue of call charges also being cheap (part of my evidence to substantiate how prices are moving towards zero); I should have included links to free calls, minutes, texts, and data. FreedomPop pioneered this free model.
ArsTechnica wrote regarding UK FreedomPop: “Its free phone plan—which comes with 200 minutes, 200 texts, and 200MB of data—uses a VoIP app for phone calls.” http://arstechnica.co.uk/gadgets/2016/01/free-global-mobile-data-roaming-comes-to-the-uk-thanks-to-freedompop/
Daily Mail wrote in Sept 2015: “The UK is the first market outside the US to get FreedomPop, which is set to launch in seven other countries in the next 12 months, and cover 20 by 2017.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3246444/What-s-catch-FreedomPop-gives-users-FREE-minutes-texts-data-life-lets-earn-completing-surveys.html
Seemingly in response to FreedomPop, the UK network Three is offering a similar free package when you buy a £10 SIM: “Provided you register the SIM at three.co.uk/freedata, you’ll receive 200MB of data every month for absolutely nothing, and better yet, you don’t even need to top it up to keep claiming that free allowance.” http://www.engadget.com/2016/02/04/three-data-reward-sim/
There is also free Internet access via Free Basics, which does have some controversy regarding Net Neutrality but it is a step in the right direction: “The subject of contention is Free Basics, Facebook and Internet.org‘s app that offers free data access but only to a limited section of the Internet. Free Basics is available in roughly 35 countries through Facebook’s partnerships with mobile carriers who see it as a way to persuade people to buy data plans.” http://techcrunch.com/2015/12/27/gatekeeper-or-stepping-stone/
March 18, 2016 at 1:21 am
We don’t really need a UBI (though it is better than current welfare systems). Rather, we need to change our mindset from one of “employee” to one of “business owner”. Every human being on this earth owns his own business. Many people choose to sell specialized labor to a single client, but that is an artificial construct. You could sell to two clients, or a billion. Or don’t sell at all.
After all, your goal as a business owner is not to accumulate pieces of paper or digital ones and zeros in a bank account, but rather to accumulate real goods that allow you to continue living and perpetuate your genes. If you could do that at home, you probably would. A home robot allows you to do exactly that. You tell it what you want, and its artificial superintelligence figures out how best to get it for you, and it goes and does it. Prior to ASI, your AGI robot will need more guidance from you, but its ability to work 24/7 for no pay and its ultra-competence as a result of access to the cloud means that things are a LOT easier. As the robot gets smarter, you need give it less and less detail, until it understands you so well, it fulfills your desires before you even knew you had them.
It’s a good thing.