The rise of robots is unstoppable. And as they take over an ever-increasing number of manual jobs, the threat of mass unemployment is looming closer than ever. In light of this ongoing ‘technological revolution’ and its possible implications on everything we know, a report initiated by Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Mady Delvaux-Stehres of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats has recently earned the approval of the Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament with an overwhelming result of 17 votes in favor and 2 votes against.
Providing an overview of the increasing impact of robots and what can be done to contain this and maintain control, one of the report’s most important recommendations has to do with the need for a Universal Basic Income. It calls on the European Commission to begin closely monitoring job trends so that they can determine what positions and tasks are being lost and if there are any being created.
If robots do turn out to be the job killers they are being feared of becoming, then a general basic income should be ‘seriously considered’. And all European Union Member States should make this move because having a basic income will be the most logical solution so people who lose their jobs can still have a shot at a ‘decent life’. Otherwise, widespread unemployment can just worsen the already wide gap between the wealthy and the underprivileged.
Aside from implementing a Universal Basic Income program, there’s also a proposal for robots to have emergency ‘kill switches’, so they can be turned off when needed to prevent them from causing extreme damage. Or, if they’re not functioning as they were intended, there has to be a way to reprogram them.
There’s also a suggestion to insure robots — their makers should be held liable and accountable for any damage they cause — based on the fact that since they will be replacing human workers, their owner should be forced to pay taxes or make social security contributions; and design them in a way that will make it impossible for anyone to forget that they are robots so they don’t get to develop any emotional attachments.
If MEPS vote in favor of the proposed legislation come February 13, it will be passed on to individual governments for further discussion and amendments before it can finally be passed as an EU law. Although Ms. Delvaux-Stehres is doubtful that it will go that easy, the fact is there is some serious support on the proposed plan coming from different sides.
In the words of Barb Jacobson, Chairperson of Unconditional Basic Income Europe: “The benefits of automation should be enjoyed by all members of society, not just those companies which directly benefit from it.”
If this point of view is shared by a majority, then Europe is still in for a bright future, with or without robots. And the concept of universal income might just proliferate faster than what everyone has been expecting.