Why A.I. Has Made Universal Basic Income Support Skyrocket in Past Decade

Nearly half of Americans now support it.

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The concept of a universal basic income — generally speaking, a government program that provides citizen with an unconditional livable wage — has been in discussion for centuries.

According to previous surveys, Americans haven’t been too keen on the idea, until now. On Monday, a survey released by Northeastern University and Gallup revealed that support for a basic income has surged in the United States within the last decade.

Out of the 3,000 U.S. adults surveyed, 48 percent support the idea. This sentiment seemed to be driven by the amount of job displacement artificial intelligence technology is predicted to cause. UBI has quadrupled in support from a similar poll a decade ago, where just 12 percent of respondents supported it.

Support for a basic income is still mixed and starkly divided by political affiliation. Roughly 65 percent of self-described Democrats agree with UBI programs compared to 28 percent of Republicans. This is a sign that the concept is still far from being unanimously accepted.

However, the looming threat of A.I. replacing humans for certain jobs seems to be shifting opinions. About 80 percent of UBI supporters favor increasing taxes for companies that benefit from A.I. for such income policies.

The survey highlighted an estimate that 47 percent of all U.S. jobs are under threat by A.I. Without a source of income, workers would struggle to obtain the necessary education or training they might require to attain a job in a more technology-centric field, while also maintaining their livelihood. Access to a basic income could help this transition process.

“We don’t need to threaten people with homelessness and poverty to get them to work,” political philosopher and economist, Karl Widerquist told CNBC. “It’s capitalism where income doesn’t start at zero.”

Artificial intelligence has already been proven to beat top lawyers at their jobs. Providing citizens with a fall-back income could enable those displacement by A.I. find an alternate career path without the fear of poverty.

If support for these programs continues to grow at this rate, we could see a future where A.I. is widespread but those replaced by it won’t be in fear of being left without a means to support themselves.

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