Posted by: patenttranslator | May 4, 2019

Is This a Rebellion?

It is an undeniable fact that globalization and continued development of information technology and artificial intelligence have been taking a huge bite (byte) out of the income of many professions for several decades now.

We translators are hardly the only ones who have been affected by these developments. It kind of started already some four decades ago when ATMs began replacing bank tellers. At this point, no profession seems to be bulletproof to the threat of cheap and nasty robots.

According to Andrew Yang, Democratic Presidential Candidate for 2020, one third of all Americans will lose their jobs to AI and automation in the next 12 years. Some economists estimate that as much as 50% of all jobs may become eliminated by automation and artificial intelligence. (Good thing I’m retired)!

To stave off massive unemployment, Andrew Yang is proposing a guaranteed universal income of 1,000 US dollars for all American adults, whether they are working or not. He calls the UBI, which stands for Universal Basic Income, a “Peace Dividend”. A test of this concept has been already tried on a small scale in Finland, which is also being referred to as the happiest country on the planet. Switzerland rejected the idea to give a UBI to every citizen in a referendum in 2016, with almost 77 per cent of the voters saying ‘no’, while 23 per cent were in favor, and other countries are reportedly also considering it.

Obviously, a thousand bucks is not enough to pay the bills, not in the United States, anyway, so most people would still need to work. But it would be a godsend to tens of millions of people who are presently in America living paycheck to paycheck or scraping by on low incomes. The question is, what kind of unintended consequences would there be if UBI were to be accepted? Wouldn’t greedy landlords raise their rents, perhaps by as much as a thousand dollars, if they knew that their tenants now had some money for a change? Wouldn’t ruthless translation agencies lower the already low rates they pay to translators in Western countries, perhaps all the way to a cent or two cents per word, if they thought they could get away with it? They probably would.

But something has to be done because the robots are coming to steal the work from a large segment of the population which, nevertheless, still needs to eat. Even the rich seem now to start realizing that a very explosive situation will be created if the present trend continues and that it might be hard for them to keep hiding in walled-off, secluded mansions. When a CEOs salary corresponds to 300 to 400 times the average salary of an average worker as it does now in the United States (but not in Western Europe or Japan, at least not yet), although a couple of decades ago the difference was at least ten times smaller, while a large segment of the population cannot find even poorly paid work, it’s easy to see that this is a recipe for a coup to be led either by proto-communist or proto-fascist factions. 

“Mais c’est une révolte”? (Is this a rebellion?) asked King Louis XVI, the last king of France, the Duke de La Rochefoucould at the court in Versailles in 1792. “Non, Sire, c’est une révolution”, (No, Sire, it’s a revolution), responded the Duke, who was a little bit better informed than the king about what was going on in the country, because just about everybody was. By January of next year, the king found out what kind of rebellion it was when he lowered his head on the scaffold to be beheaded by a guillotine at the Place de la Revolution in Paris.

A few weeks before the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, of 1989, none of the functionaries who ruled a country that was walled off from the world behind watch towers and barbed wire that was so inappropriately called German Democratic Republic, had any idea that their reign was about to end, that the country would soon be no more, and that they would be facing accusations of crimes against the people they have been teorrorizing for four decades in court.

The same thing happened in communist Czechoslovakia during a so-called Velvet Revolution between November 17 and December 29, 1989, once the formerly obedient police finally refused to shoot into protesting students in Prague. Within a few weeks, the government fell and the new one was then led by a former dissident who spent years in communist prisons for daring to speak his mind.

Once things start changing, they often change unpredictably and very quickly.

Once a seemingly impenetrable wall is breached, power structures that have been built diligently for decades or centuries melt like ice cream in hot sun.

Because replacing various components of complicated welfare systems that have been created and are being governed by the ruling classes in so many countries by a Universal Basic Income system would take too much power away from omnipotent bureaucrats, I don’t think that it will happen by 2020.

It will probably happen at some point, but not without a revolution that at first might start as a mere rebellion.

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Responses

  1. The problem with UBI as historian Yuval Noah Harari explains is that it is neither universal or basic. If citizens in advanced countries get a basic income, they might have enough to live, but what about people in developing countries who could be out of a job and not have a strong enough economy to provide such benefits? Also, what do they really mean by “basic?” What level of food/clothing/shelter would that cover and what about education, medical care, entertainment, etc? The problem with UBI is it basically turns everyone into serfs of the large tech corporations and dependent on whatever scraps they decide to hand out. There is actually a more interesting concept called UBA: Universal Basic Assets “which identifies a fundamental set of resources every person needs access to, from financial security and housing to healthcare and education.”


    http://www.iftf.org/uba/

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    • Yes, correct, it is enough for living in Taiwan with 140 EUR, but it must be diffficult to live in Australia with a pension of 140 EUR per month.

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    • “The problem with UBI is it basically turns everyone into serfs of the large tech corporations and dependent on whatever scraps they decide to hand out”.

      I believe that’s what we actually are already.

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    • “Also, what do they really mean by “basic?” What level of food/clothing/shelter would that cover and what about education, medical care, entertainment, etc?”

      Something is better than nothing, especially if this something is a thousand dollars.

      Like

  2. Steve, there is a revolution on its way, indeed. Great that we are retired, as the Germans say, “Nach mir ist der Sintflut.” We think about it, but we can´t do anything about it.

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    • Après moi, le déluge”, attributed to the king Louis XV of France.

      Le déluge indeed took place a generation later.

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  3. Steve, the Problem is that we look for meanings while the robots don´t. Die Sintflut doesn´t mean anything to us who will pass away, sooner or later. Let it be the déluge, God said. And there was die Sintflut without a meaning.

    Some how I am glad that I don´t live forever. It would be horrible to live forever, don´t you think so? Nice to have an end for everything!

    “Alles hat eine Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei.” That´s why we enjoy the sausage before we come to the end.

    The longer we live, we want more. That was why Dr. Faust´s soul belonged to the devil. So, it is nice to know that there is an end for us.

    I believe that AI will come to an end, too. MT will come to an end sooner than the roboter, I believe.

    Actually, a UBI or UBA could be a nice idea for humans who look for meanings and leave the no-brain jobs to robots and other AI-products that will be build by meaning seeking humans. Why not?

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  4. “Actually, a UBI or UBA could be a nice idea for humans who look for meanings and leave the no-brain jobs to robots and other AI-products that will be build by meaning seeking humans. Why not?”

    Exactly.

    Like


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