INTRODUCTION TO ISSUES THAT IMPACT SOCIETY
TECHNOLOGIES & SOCIETY
As technologies impact more and more of our world, we need to consider how to deal with various societal issues, including ethics, regulation, and, above all, paid-joblessness. (See the discussion below for the meaning of the term.) As the focus of this website is the impact of technology on jobs and careers, it is primarily the area of paid-joblessness in which we track discussion. But we have still included limited consideration of other societal issues, and, if you believe we have missed out on emphasizing one, please contact us to discuss it.
SOCIETY & ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE
There are several major societal issues that exponentially-increasing technological advances require us to consider. Questions to be answered include:
- What regulations should be implemented to restrict the application of AI, and how could they be enforced?
- What ethical decisions can a robot be allowed to make, especially life-and-death decisions?
- Do we need to protect ourselves from robots deciding, once they are able to reproduce and maintain themselves, that the world has no use for us fallible humans?
- Is it sufficient to ensure that the software for every robot should incorporate Isaac Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics (1942):
- A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
- A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
- A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
SOCIETY & PAID-JOBLESSNESS
We use the term ‘paid-joblessness’ because, as technology continues to reduce the value of human labor, most industrial and commercial jobs will be automated. But there is a human need to spend time productively – well, maybe not for everyone! Jobs will still exist, but the implication of being paid for the work will disappear, as most jobs will not involve payment of money. In effect, most workers will be volunteers. So the meaning of ‘a job’ must change.
If most people cannot get paid for work, the major societal question is how to get money into their hands to maintain the economic cycle:
The current economic cycle involves (with approximate government revenue % for Canada, BC):
- People work at jobs for which they are paid wages.
- Government takes a portion of those wages in taxes. (50, 17%)
- The remainder of the wages are used to buy goods and services (and ideally to save);
- Government adds consumption taxes to those sales. (15, 14%)
- Businesses take the revenue from those sales, deduct their costs, and pay a portion of the profit to government. (15, 6%)
- Businesses use the remaining profit and investment from people’s savings to expand, requiring more people to work.
The cycle collapses if there are no wages because no-one is working!
Government must find a way to put money into the hands of people to buy products and services so that they can maintain the economic cycle – and they must find a source of that money. Increasing corporate income taxes would be counter-productive in that it would stem economic growth. One, if not the only, viable option would be to increase consumption taxes. (This would best be done with a layered structure, so that, for example, basic necessities would incur a low tax rate, while luxury goods would be highly taxed.)
This does not negate the opportunity for entrepreneurial activity, which would provide economic growth, in addition to independent existence for some people, and paid jobs for others. (Think of the encouragement for starting up a new business or service: You already have sufficient income for your basic needs, and you can get staff without needing to pay them until the business grows!)
SOCIETY & UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME (‘UBI’)
One way in which government could put money into the hands of people is by establishing a UBI in which everyone, no matter what their economic situation, is paid enough for a minimal existence. There are several pilots of this approach currently in operation in different countries, testing UBI as a means to eliminate poverty (and replacing government welfare programs). We have tracked specific discussions and activities in a separate webpage.