Finland Begins Universal Basic Income Experiment for the Unemployed


Finland kicked off the New Year by rolling out a groundbreaking trial that will give some of its citizens a universal basic income, in a bid to reduce poverty and increase employment.

Little over a year after the Finnish government first announced its plan to eventually replace earnings-based social insurance benefits with a basic income, the first unconditional monthly payments of €560 ($587) began on Jan.1, reports the Associated Press.

According to AP, 2,000 people, all currently on unemployment benefits, have been chosen at random to take part in a two-year pilot trial. The basic income will be deducted from participants' existing benefits payments.

Finnish authorities are hoping that the basic income trial can provide insights into streamlining the country's complex social insurance system, as well as how people will spend the free money, reports Business Insider.

Many cite the fact that robots are replacing workers on an ever increasing scale as a reason for the need of this program:

Spacentrepreneur Elon Musk thinks we’ll eventually need a basic universal income because of “automation.”

“People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things,” he told CNBC. “Certainly more leisure time. And then we gotta figure how we integrate with a world and future with a vast AI.”

“Ultimately, I think there has to be some improved symbiosis with digital super intelligence,” the Tesla CEO said.

What will happen if robots steal our jobs? It’s a question that’s been on the minds of both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie since the advent of artificial intelligence. Robots have already eliminated some factory jobs, but even so-called “creative” work is now threatened, with media companies using AI to generate news stories.

“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that,” Musk reasoned.

Regardless of whether automation replaces human labor, the benefits of a basic universal income would be incredible. The idea that everyone would receive enough resources to be able to survive without working would solve the problem of homelessness and poverty and also pivot our cultural and economic identity. In a world with guaranteed income, we would be just as defined by our leisure as our labor.

But alas, that democratic socialist paradise is, at this point, a fantasy. Robots would have to come for our jobs at an exponential rate to generate an economic crisis that would lead to public acceptance of a society where every receives government assistance. Technofuturists like Murray Shanahan and Google’s Ray Kurzweil believe that technology is developing on an exponential curve, meaning we are fast approaching a moment where our tech will outsmart us, or at least render us obsolete. Kurzweil believes this will happen in our lifetime—the year 2045—but other experts disagree.

Source: Fortune, Gizmodo


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