Amid the spotlight of the new announcement of the humanoid robot being developed by Tesla, held last Thursday (19), Elon Musk took the opportunity to emphasize his support for the movement to create a universal basic income. According to the businessman, the robots’ ascension potential makes it necessary to guarantee income.
The American company’s project envisages a robot that will do “dangerous tasks” — such as working on Mars — “repetitive and boring”. In the meantime, Musk recognized that creating this technology could wipe out labor-intensive jobs, leaving thousands of people without a livelihood.
“Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice,” said the billionaire during the presentation. “That’s why I think in the long run there will have to be a universal basic income,” he added.
Tesla’s chief executive confirmed that the company will have a prototype within the next year and that the robot will, in essence, be an artificial intelligence (AI) in humanoid form. According to the announcement, the robot will be “friendly”, with a height of around 1.76m, weight of 68kg and reaching speeds of up to 8km per hour.
Although Musk’s robot is not yet a reality, companies are already turning to automation instead of hiring people for simpler and more routine jobs. For example, in São Paulo and in other Brazilian capitals, it is already possible to find some McDonald’s stores with touch screens where customers can order and pay for them without interacting with any attendant.
Other restaurants have reduced staffing by adopting QR codes (codes that can be read by a cell phone camera) for menus instead of having a waiter bring them. Supermarkets have also started to install more self-service stations (where the person swipes their purchases through the barcode scanner and makes the payment).
Everything indicates that these technologies will be increasingly adopted. Amidst this, discussions around universal basic income should gain more strength and visibility. Some cities have already started testing pilot programs for some audience profiles. According to the Insider portal, California recently launched the state’s largest program of its kind, prioritizing pregnant women and seniors who are outside financial assistance initiatives.
The pandemic also influenced the heated discussion on basic income due to the large increase in unemployment and the creation of aid and stimuli for these people who lost their means of income.
Despite the concern about the lack of jobs due to automation and robots doing human services, there is a line that, the more technological we become, the more we will need people with skills to operate this technology. Soon, new jobs will emerge from this great flow of change. For economics writer Noah Smith, automation could optimize job growth, as people who acted as waiters, bus conductors, cashiers and other repetitive tasks could develop more valuable skills.