AI could make us all rich, or at least that seems to be what Elon Musk is suggesting. While speaking at the U.K.’s AI Safety Summit last week, Elon Musk told U.K. Prime Minister that he believes AI will replace the need for all jobs. While some have latched on to this idea from a doomer perspective, Musk says it will introduce a “universal high income” (via Fortune).
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But what does that mean? Well, chances are you’ve heard of universal basic income or UBI. This essentially means that everyone gets a standard payment as a resident of the government, regardless of their employment. It’s an idea that has been touted several times over the years and has even gained some traction in a few places.
But what Musk proposes here is that AI won’t steal our jobs and make us all really poor. Instead, it’ll take our jobs and make us all better off with an AI-driven universal high income. Instead of simply redistributing some wealth through basic income for everyone, Musk’s idea sounds like it would see us all living in an “age of abundance.”
Elon Musk attends the Viva Technology conference dedicated to innovation and startups at the Porte de Versailles exhibition center on June 16, 2023, in Paris, France. Image source: Chesnot/Getty Images
But how does that work? Well, that’s unclear. Exactly what Musk means by universal high income is impossible to know unless he clarifies the idea. We know that it won’t be the same as universal basic income, but if Musk’s idea gives people more money, then it might meet more resistance than UBI currently does – which sees a lot of arguments against it because it would make people lazy because they wouldn’t have to work.
There are, of course, a lot of people who see the pros and cons of universal income all over the world, and while more people are warming up to it, the idea that we’ll jump to a universal high income because of AI is kind of strange to hear from Musk, especially after he joined others in signing a letter to pause development of powerful AI.
If we are indeed going to reach a point where universal income is enacted, and AI has taken all our jobs, that means we’ll need AI more powerful than ChatGPT to do it. How exactly this new stance lines up with Musk’s previous stance is unclear. Maybe he’s changed his mind.