California could soon be the first U.S. state to impose a “robot tax” to mitigate the economic effects of the replacement of factory workers by machines — if one San Francisco Democrat gets her way.
According to Wired magazine:
San Francisco supervisor Jane Kim, who Wednesday launched a campaign called the Jobs of the Future Fund to study a statewide “payroll” tax on job-stealing machines. Proceeds from the tax would bankroll things like job retraining, free community college, or perhaps a universal basic income―countermeasures Kim thinks might make a robotic future more bearable for humans.
The idea is being discussed in industrialized countries the world over, as Artificial Intelligence (AI) is beginning to outpace human development in the workplace.
According to Swiss Info, an online European business publication, the idea is gaining traction across the globe: “South Korea this month introduced the world’s first tax on robots amid fears that machines would replace human workers. The country will limit tax incentives for investments in automated machines as part of a newly proposed revision of its tax laws.” The report notes that the European Union is also looking at the issue.
YCombinator start-up guru Sam Altman has been experimenting with the idea of a universal income grant to offset displacement caused by AI. The idea has spread throughout Silicon Valley and is beginning to take root across the country, according to Bloomberg News.
Kim is not ready to push Sacramento for a new law yet. For now, she’s pushing for an open dialogue with all stakeholders including business owners, tech experts, as well as government and union leaders.