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If AI takes over all work and jobs, will the world’s elite take care of or exploit the lower classes?

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Surprise, surprise! You’ve already been dupped again.

Those at the top have already won

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Put aside any delusions you may have of a utopia where the middle class lives an easy, carefree life while robots skirt about, reacting to commands at your beck and call. We have bad news. Only those at the top of the social ladder will benefit from AI. It is likely they have already modeled endless scenarios and have a clear understanding of how AI will further consolidate wealth and power into the hands of the elite. They know they have already won.

Skeptical? Ask yourself why the ruling classes, politicians, and the wealthy upper class have not already saturated the media with stories of how wonderful life will be when AI takes over all work and jobs, freeing the middle class from their dull existence. A fundamental shift is on the horizon, one that the elite can exploit if the middle class fails to recognize and react quickly to change.

Yes, AI will replace nearly all forms of work

A human and a dog

There is a metaphor that portrays a company of the future requiring only two entities to operate – a human and a dog. The human’s sole job will be to feed the dog. The dog’s sole job will be to ensure the human does not interfere with the machines. The premise is, of course, that AI will make humans irrelevant. In truth, the “great outsourcing” has already begun.

The layoffs are coming! The layoffs are coming!

In 2023, Goldman Sachs stunned readers with research that predicted more than 300 million jobs would be affected by recent advances in artificial intelligence. AI expert Kai-Fu Lee took an even starker stance when he predicted nearly half the world’s jobs could be completed by machines a little more than 15 years from now. The jobs that are threatened are in the higher-paying fields, which means members of the middle class will be pushed downward, consolidating even more money into the hands of the rich while pushing the poor even lower down the social ladder.

Already, white-collar layoffs are accelerating, particularly in tech-based companies with close ties to AI. Most of these companies will acknowledge that AI will someday replace white-collar jobs, from accountants to upper-level management. However, few of these companies attribute today’s layoffs to AI. Instead, they claim the layoffs are required so they can “invest more money in AI”. Potato, potahto.

Living in a world where humans have no purpose

What happens to a human when the fight for survival ceases to exist?

In modern times, humans prosper by working cooperatively with others. Human value in such a system is defined by what they contribute – essentially, the value of their labor. The COVID pandemic taught us that strange things happen when this “value” is removed.

During COVID-19, people were allowed to hunker down at home. They were provided money to sustain themselves while they waited for the pandemic to end. Some took advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime situation. They went outdoors and enjoyed nature. Some signed up for online classes or took up art. Many others, however, became depressed and withdrawn. Anger festered. Divisions arose. Suicide rates climbed.

In a society where humans serve no purpose, their sense of worth must evolve if the civilization is to persist.

Measuring a human’s worth

Your contributions, not money, become the measure of your worth

If AI absorbs all forms of labor, there will be a fundamental shift in the meaning of human existence. Humans must find other ways to express their worth to society. This can be done by replacing what they produce with what they can accomplish.

The pursuit of education, public service, and, in general, how much they contribute to society becomes the measure of worth. With a sense of worth in hand, humans can live in blissful ignorance of their technological overlords. But they still must have a way to supply their basic needs, which means income – for doing nothing.

Socialism to the rescue?

With no need for human labor, citizens must find other ways to be compensated. The only way to compensate people in exchange for nothing requires a socialistic type of society where everyone’s well-being is guaranteed. To date, there are two proposals for “income for everyone.”

Universal Basic Income (UBI)

Universal Basic Income, or UBI, has been proposed as one solution for the void left when AI takes over all jobs. This would likely be a bare minimum paid to each person, similar to what Americans see with Social Security today.

Would everyone be given the same share of the pie? Who will determine how much each person receives, and by what guidelines will they be valued? The most obvious solution is a continuation of the class structure we have in place today. Money would be passed on to heirs, ensuring the societal ladder remained upright and stable. The rich stay rich, the poor stay poor – unless we can find a way to base income on something everyone has in common.

Universal Basic Dividends (UBD)

Another option is a variant of Universal Basic Income called Universal Basic Dividends or UBD. In a UBD system, people would be given a base amount that they may use as they wish. They can spend their “dividend” on necessities, entertainment, or invest in the future. Such a program would encourage investment in more innovation beyond what AI offers.

The monies in a UBD system are based on the value of a common resource. This valuation is based on the notion that certain resources cannot be owned by private parties and must be shared by all. This resource could be land. In such a system, individuals who own land are taxed at a higher rate. The proceeds from the taxes are distributed to the public as a dividend.

Another potential measurement for UBD is natural resources. For instance, private firms that exploit natural resources would be required to pay dividends to the public. Alaska has such a program in place today. Called the Alaska Permanent Fund, oil companies pay royalties to the state, which are then distributed back to the citizens in the form of an annual dividend (typically around $1700).

Don’t worry, be happy! Or else…

Socialist programs like UBI and UBD seem great on paper. However, these systems tend to experience resistance from the upper class. In 1940, the 40-your workweek was introduced to the chagrin of big business owners. At the time, 40 hours of wages were sufficient to support an entire family. But today, it requires two partners to work a total of 80 hours to support a family. Ultimately, big business was able to squeeze more productivity from the lower classes despite the limit on workers’ hours. It would be naive to expect any different reaction to UBI-type programs. The elite will fight to avoid sharing their riches through socialist programs.

Commoners become expendable

The rich get nasty

In the eyes of the elite, people who are replaced by AI become dead weight that society must bear. They are a resource drain that produces no benefit. If society adapts their position, the impact on the common classes could be dire. For instance, having children could be declared illegal. After all, children would introduce more dead weight. With no prospects for their future, offspring serve no purpose as adults.

The rich may attempt to find ways to eliminate the lower classes entirely, sending many into hiding or left to fend for themselves. People would revert to how humans used to live (Anarcho-Primitivism). There would be mass “back to nature” movements.

Survival in the new Anarcho-Primiitivism society would require a return to solving basic needs rather than accumulating “stuff.” People would forage for food, grow crops, build shelters, and live as one with nature rather than trying to control it. However, if the new arrangement became too unpopular with the masses, commoners would begin to revolt against their elite overlords.

Commoners revolt

Wealth is created collectively

The rich have always promoted the myth that they alone create wealth. This is unequivocally false. As Greek economist Yanis Varoufakis points out, “Wealth is always created collectively – but privatized by those with the power to control it.” The middle class creates wealth; without a middle class, the rich can no longer exist.

There must always be supplies and consumers. Neither can exist independently in a functioning economy. The rich are too small a group to provide the movement of money needed to drive an economic engine. This dictates the middle class must remain intact. And if the money is not distributed fairly, they will revolt against the upper class (a common step in the cyclical nature of civilizations).

Not so fast, buddy.

The upper class surely recognizes the risk of dissension in the masses and will carefully try to avoid the tipping point where the lower classes become so discontent they take action against their repressors. However, if AI has advanced far enough, any rebellion by the people could easily be quelled by the elite via advanced robotics and artificial intelligence. With control of AI in the hands of the elite, it may be an unwinnable battle.

What happens when humans have no worth?

Already our digital lives are creating vast riches for the elite. What incentive would the rich have to share the wealth that AI creates for them? Unfortunately, the shift to AI will consolidate riches, further increasing income inequality and consolidating power into the hands of the elite.

Discuss your solution to this dilemma in the comments below.

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