Dalio on AI + Universal Basic Income (and Purpose)
We live in an age of abundance of tangible things, but, curiously, my feeling (no science here), from living and reading about history, is that there’s never (strong here!) been a period with so many people so lost.
My take on this that because of very rapid technological developments we, humans, are moving towards obsolescence in terms of productivity/labor faster than we can find something useful to do with our time. It’s become harder to get that job you felt you did well, thus deserving a decent pay for it. People are too insecure.
You go to a McDonald’s and you have machines to take your order, or your order before you reach the store, through an app.
You want to watch a movie, you sit on your couch and turn on Netflix. You don’t go to a movie theater, buy your tickets from a guy at the box office, then popcorn, then meet the guy at the door of the screening room and have your good time with your loved one.
You go to work, but not confident your position will be there tomorrow. Things are speeding up, not slowing down.
I got a good question about how the proliferation of AI and algorithmic decision making will affect jobs and about the possibility of universal basic incomes eventually impacting humans’ ability to continue to derive meaning and self-purpose from work. My view is that algorithmic/automated decision making is a two edged sword that is improving total productivity but is also eliminating jobs, leading to big wealth and opportunity gaps and populism, and creating a national emergency. Largely as a result of it, capitalism is not working for the majority of Americans and is in jeopardy. Yet no one is seriously examining what to do about it.
I don’t believe that transferring money to people who are unproductive is good for the people or the economy, unless there are no other good alternatives. I believe that it’s both far better and it’s possible to find ways for making most of these people productive. I think that a national emergency should be declared, a special commission created, and metrics established to come up with programs and measurements to make work improvements that more than pay for themselves and measure the changes that are taking place. I know of many cost effective ways that improvements that pay for themselves can be made and I’m sure that many others know of many more ways.
Productivity is good for everyone. Unfortunately, it’s not available to everyone. That has to change. We need leadership that can bring that about. Unfortunately, it is more likely that nothing along these lines will be done and, in the next economic downturn, the haves and have nots will be at each other’s’ throats, fighting over income redistributions rather than working together to make plans to make most people productive. For that reason, I’m worried about the health of capitalism and democracy.
And I agree. I think Dalio means that us humans, animals of emotion, not of pure logic, need to feel useful in order to feel loved, admired. Tony Robbins says that all the time and, when a father or a mother can’t get a job they feel they execute well, that impacts the way we believe others see ourselves.
Are we worthy of what we have?
That is the reason why I think Universal Basic Income is more trouble. It will just misallocate more capital without generating the benefits humans need: purpose.
Below a few charts that show that, on a tangible basis, things have never been so good, but despite that, my feeling is that lots of dear ones aren’t feeling as good.