There are a few schools of thought on the long-term effects robots and artificial intelligence will have on the job market. Some say nearly half of all jobs will be replaced by machines; others say jobs will simply change, with manual labor being replaced with developer and engineering roles. And still others hold the optimistic view, that some occupations will be lost, but people and machines will work in tandem, with robots doing mundane tasks and acting as assistants.
Elon Musk has chimed in on what he thinks the future will look like: The robots will indeed take our jobs, and we’ll rely on the government to cut us checks and keep us afloat.
“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk told CNBC on Friday. “Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”
If Musk has his way, Tesla will certainly have a role in moving the world toward that future. In October, the company announced that beginning in 2017, all Tesla vehicles will have full self-driving capabilities. Currently, a human driver is still needed to remain on alert and take control if needed.
Musk has hinted at plans to build the Tesla Network, presumably a rival to ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, in which car owners could make money by renting out their self-driving cars to ferry passengers around town. He’s also referenced automated buses that would let riders hop on and off.
Uber, meanwhile, is currently testing a fleet of several dozen self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. Last week, the company’s head of North America described a future in which self-driving cars cruise around the suburbs and cities, picking up commuters who pay via a monthly subscription plan. In a partnership with a startup called Otto, founded by two ex-Googlers, the company recently drove a shipment of beer 120 miles in an automated tractor trailer.
Of course, automation isn’t limited to the roads. Amazon has been using robots for years to fetch items in its fulfillment centers. More recent use cases include hotels experimenting with using bots as bellhops. Companies like Starship Technologies are sending rolling bots down sidewalks to deliver food and packages to people’s doors.
All of these innovations have the potential to remove a whole lot of jobs from the market. A recent report by Forrester predicts that in five years, robots will replace six percent of jobs currently held by humans.
Musk’s vision of the future isn’t on the immediate horizon, though. The technology isn’t there yet, and government-provided universal basic income is a controversial topic at best, even in countries that offer more financial support to citizens. As CNBC points out, Switzerland considered introducing a monthly payment of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,578) per person, but voters rejected the proposal.
If and when it does happen, though, Musk doesn’t seem to think it will be a bad thing.
“People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things,” says Musk. “Certainly more leisure time.”
It’s worth nothing that this is coming from a CEO who says he’s only taken two weeks of vacation in the last 12 years. “The second time I took a week off, my rocket exploded,” he said last year. “The lesson here is don’t take a week off.”
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