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‘AI Godfather’ Says AI Will ‘Take Lots Of Mundane Jobs’, Urges UK To Adopt Universal Basic Income

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Computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, often called “the godfather of AI,” worries that the newfangled technology will replace many workers doing “mundane jobs.” He has urged the UK government to introduce universal basic income to minimise AI’s impact.

Since its emergence, artificial intelligence (AI) has been met with mixed reactions. Some have positioned it as a potential equaliser, suggesting that tools like ChatGPT could benefit employees who struggle with certain aspects of their jobs. Conversely, critics have raised concerns about the technology’s potential to worsen existing inequalities.

Hinton, a pioneer in neural networks, has emerged as a vocal critic of potential dangers associated with AI. Following his departure from Google last year, he has expressed concerns about technology’s impact on society.

Aligning himself with those who believe AI could harm people, Hinton recently told the BBC that he’s “apprehensive about AI taking lots of mundane jobs.”

Guaranteed Income: A Safety Net in the Age of AI

“I was consulted by people in Downing Street,” he said. Hinton advocated for universal basic income (UBI) to solve this challenge. For those unaware, UBI alludes to a system of recurring cash payments distributed to all adults within a defined population, irrespective of wealth or employment status.

Recipients have complete discretion over how they spend the money. UBI has gained significant traction among AI researchers, futurists, and industry leaders as a potential solution to mitigate the economic disruptions potentially caused by AI.

A 2018 study conducted in Alaska provided further evidence for the potential of universal basic income (UBI). The study’s findings suggested that providing unconditional cash transfers did not disincentivise work. As a result, UBI is gaining traction in countries like South Africa, Kenya, and India as a potential tool for addressing poverty.

Several cities and states have experimented with guaranteed basic incomes in the US, providing no-strings-attached monthly payments to a targeted group of people. Hinton warns that AI, while boosting productivity and wealth, could exacerbate inequality if left unchecked.

He fears job displacement and urges government intervention to prevent this negative societal impact. Sounding the alarm on AI development, Hinton urged a cautious approach. He believes within 5 to 20 years, AI could pose an extinction-level threat to humanity.

Even proponents of rapid AI development acknowledge the need for government intervention. Recurring payments to redistribute wealth are gaining traction as a possible solution.

OpenAI CEO Experiments with UBI: Can Tech Solve Inequality?

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and a leading figure in the race for artificial general intelligence, also conducts his experiment on a universal basic income. The results are expected to be released soon.

Altman proposes “universal basic compute” as an alternative to a traditional UBI. This concept would grant everyone access to the capabilities of a powerful future language model, like GPT-7, instead of direct cash payments.

“Everybody gets like a slice of GPT -7’s compute,” he said on the “All-In” podcast. “They can use it, they can resell it, they can donate it to somebody to use for cancer research.”

Universal basic income, while offering some advantages, also presents several challenges. In 2023, it was announced that universal basic income would be trialled with randomly-selected but controlled groups in the UK by think-tank, Autonomy. While the results have yet to be published, there were several pros and cons to take into consideration which are as follows:

Pros

  • UBI Targets Income Security

UBI can potentially be a powerful tool in tackling poverty and inequality. UBI would directly increase income levels by providing a regular, unconditional cash payment, particularly for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

  • UBI’s Impact Goes Beyond Money

UBI’s impact extends beyond finances, potentially improving health and well-being. Increased income could lead to better nutrition and healthcare access, reducing the strain on public services.

  • UBI Reduces Administration Costs

UBI could streamline social security by eliminating complex eligibility checks and freeing resources for the DWP to support employment initiatives better.

Cons

UBI’s biggest drawback is its hefty price tag. While effective, a UBI high enough to make a difference might be unaffordable. Targeted programs, though debatable in effectiveness, offer a potentially cheaper solution.

  • UBI Might Disincentivise Some From Working More

UBI’s impact on jobs needs to be clarified. Supporters argue it frees job seekers for better matches, boosting productivity. However, it could also disincentivise some from working more.

  • Funding UBI Could Require Higher Taxes

Implementing UBI might necessitate substantial tax increases across income brackets. While the goal is to raise incomes for the most disadvantaged, these tax hikes could dampen some motivation, especially higher earners, to work more. This could hinder overall economic growth.

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