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Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes (qz.com) 388

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said he believes that governments should tax companies that use robots who are taking human jobs, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. The money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools -- jobs which humans are particularly well suited for. Quartz reports: [Gates] argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it. "You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed" of automation, Gates argues. That's because the technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it's important to be able to manage that displacement. "You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once," Gates says, citing warehouse work and driving as some of the job categories that in the next 20 years will have robots doing them. You can watch Gates' remarks in a video here, or read the transcript embedded in Quartz' report.
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Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes

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  • only death is left for humans in the inevitable.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:32PM (#53890307)

      Sounds fine. The robot's salary is $0. 25% tax of $0 is $0.

      • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @11:21PM (#53890531)

        The government should impute the wages that a human worker would be paid in 2010 with a Human cost-of-living adjustment based on the Robot's job description, For a given amount of Company revenue by industry.

        Then Double the quantity

        And compare the Wages the Company is currently paying every month to the Imputed Wages based on the greater of the Total number of robots Jobs, and based on the Company's total revenue and Industry.

        Make the companies Pay standard Employee Taxes on the difference between the Imputed Sum and the Actually paid sum, Including what the Social security, Medicare, Income Tax, and Healthcare benefits would be; Require the company actually buy in Health insurance for the robots.

        Then make the companies pay an Additional supplement to Income Tax witholding for the robots called the "Automation tax".

        Basically, double the income tax rate for automated employees to 60%, after already having doubled the wage, And specify the "Minimum wage" for the lowest jobs for purposes of imputing automated job roles to $20/Hour.

        • by johannesg ( 664142 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @05:15AM (#53891161)

          You (and others) seem to believe that "robots" are clearly defined pieces of equipment, that clearly take over someone's job. Something with at least a sinister metallic arm that you can point to and say "that thing has my job!".

          Reality is that work has been steadily mechanized over a course of centuries, and that process will continu. Instead of you doing your job with a machine, it will be a slightly smarter machine doing the work - and it may or may not have an arm. Where do you draw the line, precisely? How is a law going to define what a "robot" is and what isn't? Is an assembly line one robot, or a hundred? How about the robots in your house: are you going to pay taxes on your mixer, your bread maker, your oven, your fridge, etc.? How about your car, are you going to pay taxes on that as well? Each of those devices save a lot of work, and in doing so, replace human labor. Are we going to pay taxes for all of that?

          If you wish to apply tax in terms of displaced human labour, will you compare with assembly line labour of a century ago, or fully manual labour of a millennium ago? How about robots in China, how will you tax those?

          • by mysidia ( 191772 )

            Where do you draw the line, precisely?

            The great thing is you don't have to draw lines. Eventually you categorize all kinds of businesses based on category, and you set a required percentage of Money spent on Labor per Dollar of revenue, Based on what those ratios were before additional automation was introduced ----- Also, you can set a 100-year's schedule to allow 0.5 percent points more of savings per year by automating.

            It doesn't matter what kind of automation you used to reduce your Labor co

            • That's stupid. Imagine total economic output as a cake. Taxes can be used to redistribute the cake in a (hopefully) fair way. Robot workers and automation make the cake bigger. You should not use taxes as a mechanism to keep the cake small.

              • by Enigma2175 ( 179646 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @12:42PM (#53892201) Homepage Journal

                But the problem is that with the current economic system a small number of people take most of the cake and put it in their cake vault, the workers get enough cake to survive on and some people get no cake at all. If robots can replace all the current workers then why would the owners of the robots give away any of their large stash of cake when they don't have to?

                If the cake is large enough to feed everyone why are we making more cake? Just so the cake hoarders can put even more cake in their vaults?

            • by w3woody ( 44457 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @03:49PM (#53892903) Homepage

              Dude, you can't even reasonably calculate the number of man-hours that have been lost to air-powered hammers when used to frame a stick-and-nail framed house. Or the number of man-hours lost to power saws (over using a hand-saw). Or in other industries, the number of man-hours lost to software developers as we transitioned from punch cards to having our own desktop computers, or the number of man-hours lost as we transitioned to better IDEs which allow us to more quickly find and fix problems in our software.

              Or take the production of films. Can you reasonably calculate the number of man-hours lost when movie makers transitioned from cellulose film stock to using Red cameras and an all-digital production process?

              And part of the reason why you cannot say what has been lost is because two things happen when automation takes people's jobs. Prices for a thing go down, but also, money is available to expand the offerings we get. Houses get bigger. Software gets more complex and more intricate. Movies contain more special effects and become "grander" and on a larger scale.

              The real problem I have with the reasoning used by those who assume increased productivity (which is what "robots" give us) is that they assume, like Charles Duell's apocryphal quote from 1899 presumes, that everything that can be invented has been invented, and that life will continue on pretty much the same, with the same offerings, same products, same goods and services--but just with fewer people doing them. It's zero-sum thinking--and from an economics perspective, zero-sum thinking has been the source of pretty much most of the evils of the past century.

      • Instead of an income tax, it could be an operate tax. $0.10 per hour of operation. So little that manufactures might agree to it, but since you'd likely want to operate your robots around the clock that's about $16/week. Not enough to support any poor old ladies, but these sorts of social programs aren't usually setup to depend on a single source of tax revenue.

        That said, if I had a business and money to spend on lobbyist I wouldn't let the government place taxes on using my own property.

      • What about value-added tax in places where it exists? Surely the unpaid robots create added value in course of their operation.
    • by Gussington ( 4512999 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:41PM (#53890343)

      only death is left for humans in the inevitable.

      The only thing that is inevitable is prophets of doom every time a technology article is released.
      Had you explained life in 2017 to someone from 1840, it would be unbelievable. And a person from 1840 might not be able to live in 2017 successfully doesn't mean that there aren't still billions of humans doing just that today. So to analyse the prophet of doom a bit further, what you really mean is, a person with a brought up in 2017 would probably find life in 2087 a gap too far to bridge. But that doesn't mean humans in 2087 won't find whatever world they're living in as normal (and likely enjoying a higher standard of living)

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        Had you explained life in 2017 to someone from 1840, it would be unbelievable.

        You'd have to start by explaining a lot of new words that did not exist then. Like "unemployment".

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          You'd have to start by explaining a lot of new words that did not exist then. Like "unemployment".

          Only because working for somebody else was not the norm. You had workers, homesteaders and vagrants. Obviously if you worked on your own land, trade or craft you were what we'd today call self-employed. Those who didn't were drifters taking stray jobs, when they weren't employed they were just called much less civilized things than unemployed.

          • by quenda ( 644621 )

            People seem to be confusing the early 19th C with the Great Depression of the 20th.

            Around here, Australia, there was a chronic labour shortage in those days. And I believe it was similar in the US:

            The U.S. economy of the early 19th century was characterized by labor shortages, as noted by numerous contemporary observers. The labor shortage was attributed to the cheapness of land and the high returns on agriculture. All types of labor were in high demand, especially unskilled labor and experienced factory workers.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

            And that was before workers started fleeing to the gold rushes.

        • "You'd have to start by explaining a lot of new words that did not exist then. Like "unemployment"."

          William Wordsworth, the Lake poet who lived in rural Cumbria, described rural unemployment and vagrancy as being common in his time - the early nineteenth century, in the heart of the Industrial Revolution:
          http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww... [bartleby.com]
          and: http://www.bartleby.com/145/ww... [bartleby.com]

          This student thesis describes, albeit crudely, Wordsworth's social milieu: https://ttu-ir.tdl.org/ttu-ir/... [tdl.org]
          A time of dislocation as te

    • I would say he's asking for a corporate profits tax - as robots increase profitability, corporations should pay increased taxes on that profitability.

      Now, we just have to shred all the corporate tax loopholes and get them to start paying some taxes in the first place.

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:09PM (#53890199)
    My company got merged, I got redundant, and the handful of Cxxx's involved got huge bonuses? Um no, those Cxx's need to pay tax on my lost income.

    When your goal is to reduce headcount, you should have to pay for it.
    • by FlyHelicopters ( 1540845 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @11:00PM (#53890445)

      When your goal is to reduce headcount, you should have to pay for it.

      People who say this are morons...

      If you make it expensive to fire people or lay them off (like they do in parts of Europe), then people are very reluctant to hire in the first place...

      Companies will then do anything they can to avoid hiring anyone extra to start with...

      • When your goal is to reduce headcount, you should have to pay for it.

        People who say this are morons...

        If you make it expensive to fire people or lay them off (like they do in parts of Europe), then people are very reluctant to hire in the first place...

        Companies will then do anything they can to avoid hiring anyone extra to start with...

        Because they're so generous with their hiring today? When corporations are hiring full-time benefit positions with 6 weeks of vacation, maternity leave, and decent healthcare, I'll start believing that they have a good working system... who has these things today, Europe, or the USA?

        • I live and work in Europe. Give me a minute, I'm sure I can guess the answer.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by virtig01 ( 414328 )

          Generous with compensation != generous with hiring

          It's true, the average American worker doesn't get as much vacation time as a European worker. Still, half of American workers don't use all of their vacation days as it is. But pay is higher. Perhaps American workers just value cash compensation over other benefits.

          On the hiring front (which is the topic IIRC), hiring climate is substantially better in the US. Hiring/firing is easier, and labor mobility is higher. The unemployment rate is more volatile, but

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            American workers need more money because there are fewer public services, particularly healthcare.

            European workers have more stability and rights. That leads to overall higher levels of freedom. Even unemployment isn't as bad, because the benefits and assistance are better.

            Basically I'm the US you might be lucky and do better from that system, but overall it is on average worse. And of course Americans don't believe in luck anyway, success is entirely due to character and will.

          • by kaur ( 1948056 )

            Perhaps American workers just value cash compensation over other benefits.

            American workers are saving off for their kid's education and their own medical costs. Europeans just don't need to do that.

            I worked for a large corporation with headquaters in US and branches everywhere. The Americans got paid a lot more - a LOT more. Their social insecurity was still showing off. Especially in family matters.

            People getting 10x my salary stated "we cannot afford a second child". In my country, getting a child is a no-cost affair. All medical expenses are paid, a parent gets 1.5 years fully

      • If you make it expensive to fire people or lay them off (like they do in parts of Europe), then people are very reluctant to hire in the first place...
        Companies will then do anything they can to avoid hiring anyone extra to start with...

        It's just another reason for UBI. Then you can do away with the minimum wage. It's also a great reason for national health. Then employers don't need to deal with employee contributions, either. And with a graduated tax scheme for corporations as well as individuals, small business can get a break even with a simplified tax code.

        Simplify, reduce, streamline. UBI.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:10PM (#53890201)

    Does that include WYSIWYG word processing software that put all those typesetters out of work? Bill, you owe some back taxes.

  • What a load... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fustakrakich ( 1673220 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:12PM (#53890209) Journal

    Exactly the reverse should happen. Prices have to be driven down. Nobody is going to pay the tax but us.

    • You realise that cost of production and cost of sale are almost totally unrelated now, and have been for some time, right?

      Look at engineering tools.
      A set of good (cobalt steel) drills ex-china (and yes, they are genuine, identical to local) sell for around 20% of the local cost, and that is delivered..

      However the same is true everywhere.

      The reason you pay 'Prices' is to support the corporate cash stockpiles, and therefore share values. Deal with it.

      • Prices are, and have been, whatever the market will bear. Very few prices are driven down globally by competition - retailers like WalMart will jack up prices 2x and more (same good, different prices in stores less than 20 miles apart) when they can get away with it, because of captive markets, or markets that don't comparison shop, etc.

        Price competition is real, but it's not nearly as ubiquitous as "free market" champions think it is.

  • Bill gates doesn't have a clue. Not a clue.

    If you tax robots, then there is LESS incentive to getting robots, and more work for humans to do.

    Once you realise that tax does *not fund* expenditure, but is only there to prevent inflation and add value to money, you realise the absolute stupidity of what he suggests.

    • by h33t l4x0r ( 4107715 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:22PM (#53890261)
      That's his whole point. He's arguing for slowing down automation so that everyone doesn't lose their jobs all at once.
      • It doesn't make sense though. Imagine everyone was suddenly out of the job and replaced by a robot. What this means is that there's still the same (or maybe better) production of existing goods and services and suddenly a lot of newly available human labor. Assuming some small number of people don't own all this robot labor or there's a functional market, prices have to immediately collapse or there's no real sense in having all of these robots make things that no one can afford to buy.

        In the real world
        • The problem is that there are a lot of people who don't own those robots and the people who do aren't all that sensitive to the problems of those people and aren't too unhappy to just sell to other people who also own robots.
        • Society still can't afford to give them the care that they need, but with robots that care can become so much less expensive that what they can get will become better.

          No, and yes. Society _can_ afford quality medical care, the delivery and compensation model in the U.S. is just so utterly twisted, inbred and corrupt that it only appears like we can't afford basic healthcare for everyone. Can every IED victim have a copy of the latest most highly developed prosthetics? No, but if we develop that tech in a responsible manner, maybe 2% of them can, and the other 98% can benefit from the much more highly developed, refined, and cost optimized 5-10 year old designs. The s

    • by peragrin ( 659227 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @11:11PM (#53890491)

      Gets better

      Define robot taking away a job?

      As 30 years ago. Companies would need lots of accountants and billing people. Those jobs were replaced by Windows computers running accounting software that did the math and run reports for them so they didn't need so many people to do more work than was previously possible.

      Is that a robot since it replaced a high paying job?

      Should Microsoft be taxed for job loss?

      Why don't people ever think things through?

      • Gates doesn't miss this point. He's got his billions, nobody's going to "claw back" all his money in retroactive taxes. What he's trying to say is that the next generation of multi-billionaires need to give more back up front, instead of getting to make the world's largest pile of cash and then attempting to figure out where to give away 10% of it before they die.

      • the point is the phase "Robot Tax". It's simple, easy to understand and feels good. We're not taxing Job Creators we're taxing those job stealing robots.

        If you're interested in the welfare of the average citizens one of the most important things you need to figure out is how to get them to accept the help they so desperately need. To put it another way: Ayn Rand would have died homeless if a friend hadn't convinced her to accept Social Security.
    • Bill gates doesn't have a clue. Not a clue.

      All evidence points to the contrary.

      If you tax robots, then there is LESS incentive to getting robots, and more work for humans to do.

      Bill Gates is heavily invested in industries which will involve human employees for the foreseeable future. His relative wealth is based in part upon the notion that workers will be taxed. If robots aren't taxed, then less taxes will be collected from workers, and then the rich will have to pay more taxes. This obviously isn't an option if you're Bill Gates; he must lie awake at night thinking about what a big portion of UBI he's going to have to pay for in those circumst

    • You sure have the clueless part right.

      First, how is this law going to be enforced? A robot can be scaled to do any portion of a human's job, or the jobs of multiple people. See that thing that looks like a washing machine with paper slots - that's our engineering department. That thing that looks like a pizza oven is our production line. Government inspectors will be unable to determine how many people a robot replaces, or even if a particular machine is even a robot. If the government decides just to count

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:16PM (#53890237)

    Look. We're going to have to accept, in the near future, that smart machines are better than humans at many tasks.

    So why would we want, as humans, to keep doing those tasks? Isn't that just embarrassing to keep trying? You're not actually being useful. You're just pretending to be.

    So yes, businesses that make profit via automated processes should pay tax to help give people a UBI (universal basic income), but the tax shouldn't be different than paid by any profitable business.

    Why keep people working at tasks they are second-rate at? Doesn't make any sense. People should be free to find something actually meaningful and useful to do, given their unique experience and talent. They shouldn't do make-work projects that a robot can do better. That's just a dumb policy.

    • Because Human Nature (Score:4, Interesting)

      by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:45PM (#53890365)

      Don't pretend that science does not exist just because your narrative is harmed by science. Most normal humans don't want to sit around and do nothing, they want to be productive and make personal goals, balance risk versus security, have control of their destiny, and be able to provide better for their families than they did for themselves. Normal humans don't want to have the same job as everyone else, don't want to live in the same kind of house, wear the same kinds of clothing, eat the same foods, etc.. etc.. etc... The whole point of every story of Utopia ever written is that Utopia CAN NOT EXIST! Individuality is part of being a human, and individual liberty is the normal state of a human.

      Don't sit around telling us how great science is when you ignore it.

      • by amiga3D ( 567632 )

        I'll be happy to settle in on 40 acres in the back end of nowhere, raise some crops and animals and enjoy life. I want to work but I don't want a fucking job. I don't want a boss.

        • I'll be happy to settle in on 40 acres in the back end of nowhere, raise some crops and animals and enjoy life. I want to work but I don't want a fucking job. I don't want a boss.

          If you actually had to farm forty acres, you would want to invest in some up-to-date farm machinery, thereby starting the cycle all over again.

      • ...Most normal humans don't want to sit around and do nothing, they want to be productive and make personal goals, balance risk versus security, have control of their destiny, and be able to provide better for their families than they did for themselves. Normal humans don't want to have the same job as everyone else, don't want to live in the same kind of house, wear the same kinds of clothing, eat the same foods, etc.. etc.. etc... The whole point of every story of Utopia ever written is that Utopia CAN NOT EXIST! Individuality is part of being a human, and individual liberty is the normal state of a human.

        You should check out Marshall Brain's 'Manna'. The point of its utopia is that it could be made to exist, and the people who live in it are as varied and individualistic as they care to be. I find one of the premises of his utopia a bit far-fetched and a bit creepy, but that's probably only because a), I'm old and b), I haven't lived through the huge displacement caused by ubiquitous automation and AI. He makes a compelling case for what we might be if we do inventive and sensible things in response to our

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Don't pretend that science does not exist just because your narrative is harmed by science. Most normal humans don't want to sit around and do nothing, they want to be productive and make personal goals

        Yes, but it's vastly overrated how much personal goals are productive to somebody else. I know lots of people have hobbies and interests they'd like to spend more time on, but they have no interest in competing in sports at a professional level. They have no interest in making a product for sale or a service for anyone else. Achievements are things like reading a book, climbing a mountain, travelling the world, learning to cook, building a model train in your basement or raiding in WoW. The primary driver f

      • > they want to be productive and make personal goals

        "Working" as a scribe, copying books with pen and ink, isn't really being productive when the printer on the shelf can produce much better copies, much faster.

        Scrubbing clothes against a washboard, pretending the washing machine doesn't exist, isn't being productive, it's wasting your time.

        Sitting at a desk all day adding up columns of numbers is a wssting your time, given that a computer can get the job done a billion times faster, and with far fewer

      • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @01:47AM (#53890855)
        I think in your own rambling way you're trying to say that without the struggle for survival folks will fall to Ennui. That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. There's plenty of things folks can do to amuse themselves. And 99% of us are just fine wearing the same cloths and watching the same things as everyone else. Have you checked what the top websites are lately? There's not that many of them.

        You yell out loud that the Utopia can't exist but you haven't given a lick of evidence. Meanwhile I can point out that folks who are independently wealthy do just fine at finding stuff to do. People don't need to worry about where their next meal is coming from to be content. If they did the Netherlands would be a wasteland.
      • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @02:14AM (#53890917) Homepage

        Most normal humans don't want to sit around and do nothing, they want to be productive and make personal goals, balance risk versus security, have control of their destiny, and be able to provide better for their families than they did for themselves.

        The above is all very true, but it doesn't follow that humans therefore want to spend their working hours doing tedious manual labor that could be done better by a robot. (I'm not sure you were saying that it did follow, btw)

        Ask just about anyone what their dream job would be, and they'll tell you. Ask them why they aren't currently doing their dream job, and they'll tell you that as well -- often it's because there's little or no money to be made as an actor or dance instructor or professional hang glider pilot or artisanal woodworker or etc. Many of these activities can only be hobbies instead of jobs, because people need to feed their children and pay the rent, and so they are forced into doing whatever drudgery the market is willing to pay for, instead of the activities they are really good at and enjoy doing.

        But does it have to be that way forever? Without robots and AI, the answer is probably, yes -- there are un-fun tasks that nevertheless need to be done, so those are largely the tasks that society is willing to pay for. The garbage bins aren't going to empty themselves, and all that.

        But in a future society where robots can perform most of these everyday tasks effectively "for free"; there is no reason to force a human being to do those tasks. Instead, with the menial labor done by robots, the wage-slaves could then be freed up to pursue whatever "dream job" they want to have, regardless of whether they can find someone willing to pay them much (or anything) to do that job, or not.

        How could they afford it? Either because the robot labor has made goods and services so cheap that even a minimal salary is still plenty to meet one's financial needs, or because a system has been set up to tax the robots and use that money to subsidize paying salaries for jobs that would otherwise not be economically possible. Probably a combination of those two things.

        Is that happy scenario inevitable? Not on the short term -- the default scenario would be that the owners of the robots keep all their robot-generated wealth to themselves, and become incredibly rich while everyone else becomes unemployed. But what happens then -- when 99% of the population is on welfare? The only difference between that and the "happy scenario" is that the out-of-work majority has no incentive to do anything constructive, and is still viewing their unemployment as a personal failure rather than an inevitable consequence of superhuman AI -- and that stigma will fade rapidly once it becomes apparent that it applies to everyone, not just to the traditional "losers". At that point, people will stop calling it "welfare" and start calling it a "basic living stipend", and if democracy still exists, they will adjust the funding levels provided by it such that the robots' productivity is enjoyed by all and not just by the super-rich.

        But that leaves the problem of hopeless couch-potato-ism; so an enhancement to just cash handouts would be encouraging people to pursue their dream activities, and paying them to do so. Then we'd have people living rewarding lives that they chose for themselves, rather than sitting around feeling bad about being on the dole, or slowly dying inside doing tedious make-work.

    • Guess you've never heard of the phenomenon of bullshit jobs.

      The issue is not that jobs used to have meaning and now they don't; most jobs in most periods have undoubtedly been staffed by people who would prefer to be doing something else. The issue is that too little of the recent gains from technological advance and economic growth have gone toward giving people the time and resources to enjoy their lives outside work.

      http://www.economist.com/blogs... [economist.com]

      • A full time job is 40 hours a week. That leaves 128 hours a week for people "to enjoy their lives outside work." We've already passed the point of diminishing returns; many people are willing to work a few additional hours in order to gain the advantages that more money brings.

        For people who don't have to tend to their children every day, larger blocks of free time are useful. A work week of four 10-hour days or three 13-1/3 hour days wastes less time in commuting and provides larger blocks of time for majo

    • by JoeMerchant ( 803320 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @12:06AM (#53890649)

      Smart machines are already much better at tasks I used to do by hand.

      In the 1980s I was hand-writing 6502 assembly code. I don't do that anymore. I don't even know how most of the current Skylake, et. al. x86 instruction sets work - smart machines do that for me.

      I used to hand-code instructions to 16550 UART chips to feed data across RS-232 lines, I handled the framing, timing, response to interrupt when the 16 byte buffer was ready for more data, etc. Today I'm issuing packets to AMQP exchanges that distribute them over TCP/IP, my data doesn't just travel across the room, it's distributed globally, and "smart machines" handle a half dozen protocol layers between my data and the kind of things I used to program the 16550 chips to do.

      People built those "robots" in the last 20 years, and because of them we're all doing more, with less work. (let's not even get into the contrast between /. and the BBS code I wrote to run over a 300 baud modem...)

  • Let's start with printers, photocopiers, faxes and PC's and hand calculators. They put hundreds of thousands of office workers out of work.

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Let's start with printers, photocopiers, faxes and PC's and hand calculators. They put hundreds of thousands of office workers out of work.

      That's what I was thinking... besides, unless you mean like literally replaced what has say Amazon meant for the retail industry? How many brick-and-mortar jobs have been lost and would they count somehow? Probably not. So basically the same thing would happen except it would be new companies pushing out old companies instead.

      • Amazon actually gives small companies a place to market their products to a larger audience. If you want to blame a company for killing Mom & Pop shops, Wal-Mart has done more to kill American workers than just about anyone. Not content to destroy their competitors in large swaths of the country, they've pushed companies into offshoring to China to guarantee they get the prices they want.
    • Let's start with printers, photocopiers, faxes and PC's and hand calculators. They put hundreds of thousands of office workers out of work.

      By making offices more efficient, this tech created a lot more office work, with a net gain of human employees even at the reduced ratio of machine to man.

  • Don't tax it, own it. Humans8 should invest in robot companies and live off the revenue thereof. Robots will make things cheap. Robotic indoor farming. Basic math shows that one large indoor farming skyscraper like they are building in Singapore or even an underground facility powered by a large solar array or other power plant (nuclear fusion, maybe in 25 years) would be able to provide all the food for a large city. For security purposes obviously you would want these spread out over neighborhoods like Fr

    • Don't tax it, own it. Humans8 should invest in robot companies and live off the revenue thereof.

      If you take automation to the logical conclusion, there is no need for ownership or tax. These things only exist under a resource scarce environment. You only need money to pay for things, but automation could free us of this, since full automation means every step of the process from material creation/extraction to end product or service costs nothing. The robots make themselves and service themselves, so there is no cost to anything. If there is no cost, then everything is free, therefore accessible to al

  • I've been posting that idea on Internet forums for a while now.

    I guess Gates visits the same conspiracy theory forums that I do. I hope he gets more mileage out of than I do.

    • I should have RTFA first. I think it should go farther than Gates' idea. Robots should pay income tax and the funds should be used for universal basic income for humans.

  • *facepalm*

  • Great idea (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guruevi ( 827432 ) <`evi' `at' `evcircuits.com'> on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:39PM (#53890335) Homepage

    Let the countries that don't tax their robot manufacturers take all the production AND the jobs.

    The problem isn't robots or automation, it's corporations like Microsoft and people like Gates that are the problem. They pay taxes at zero or even negative rates and then expect the government to provide "free" healthcare and unemployment for their employees (which in turn makes their employees pay for it).

    I'd say repeal all taxes and only tax things coming in over state borders at one rate and things coming in over national borders at a higher rate for all finished products and "intellectual property". This would encourage more local and domestic development. If Microsoft wants to import code from India, have it taxed based on the time and resources it took to develop abroad -or- if they want to avoid that, have it put into public domain.

    • by ljw1004 ( 764174 )

      Let the countries that don't tax their robot manufacturers take all the production AND the jobs.

      Great idea. Gates was talking about two jobs in particular - driving and warehouse work. Next time you want a lorry load of goods hauled from Seattle to Spokane, why not just outsource the driving work to India?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Pete Smoot ( 4289807 )

      The problem isn't robots or automation, it's corporations like Microsoft and people like Gates that are the problem. They pay taxes at zero or even negative rates and then expect the government to provide "free" healthcare and unemployment for their employees (which in turn makes their employees pay for it).

      Microsoft ultimately doesn't pay taxes. Only people bear the burden of taxes. That could be Microsoft's employees (through lower wages), customers (through higher prices) or investors (through lower profits), generally a combination of all three. Microsoft is only the channel the government uses to collect the taxes. That being said, I don't think the Billster avoids all taxes. Very few people pay no taxes.

      I'm not sure why Microsoft should provide charity to people. I'd much rather Microsoft (and other comp

      • Re:Great idea (Score:4, Informative)

        by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @02:02AM (#53890885) Journal

        Economists tend to think the most efficient and least distorting thing to do is toss all existing taxes and replace them all with a single, broad-based consumption tax.

        I won't support that because it's broadly regressive: poor people pay a higher percentage of their income as tax. You can kind of balance it out, but when that happens (like in California), the middle class pays the highest percentage.

  • by alzoron ( 210577 )

    as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.

    What the hell for? Let's get everything fully automated as soon as possible so we can get the basic income uprising out of the way and we can all do whatever we want instead of what we feel we have to do.

    • as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment.

      What the hell for? Let's get everything fully automated as soon as possible so we can get the basic income uprising out of the way and we can all do whatever we want instead of what we feel we have to do.

      I agree. Ignoring the fact that it's impossible to draw the line between a robot and a machine (is a calculator a robot?, what about a self service checkout?), I think the best solution for excess labor is probably to just start reducing hours worked per week in lockstep. If we reduced hours worked from 40 to 30 then we would instantly create 25% more jobs. As jobs get automated away, we could continue to reduce hours worked until people were only working a few hours per week. It's really the supply ver

  • We have to build the Robot Legislator First. (!)

    Then the Robot Union... :facepalm:

    We won't notice anything wrong until the "Robots Hunting Humans" reality TV series.

    And even then, there won't be any outcry until Season 3 at least. :)

  • Ryan and Rand (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @10:47PM (#53890381)
    Years ago, the Right Wing realized the US has waaay more people than they needed (those needs only being cord wood troopers for lucrative Endless War (TM), former Seal Team 6 security goons, and only the top-shelf prostitutes and rent boys). So short of rolling the cattle trucks and firing up the ovens, how best to get rid of all these useless people?

    The total destruction of any type of governmental safety net. Cut most and privatize the rest (just like they are with jails and prisons), and all those un-needed proles will stop dropping like flies. First the aged, then the disabled, and most of the poor (with of a carve-out for the true believer white ones).

    Donald's daily circus shit-show is merely distraction from the real agenda of Ayn Rand devotees like Ryan.
  • taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools -- jobs which humans are particularly well suited for.

    Ever deal with someone with dementia? It's not pretty. It's exactly the sort of work that robots can handle better than humans.

  • This story (or more accurately the trend that it is addressing) kinda worries me. Reading this, reading about the Luddites (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite), then thinking about political incompetence and societal inertia, I wonder what are the chances of general anti-technology riots if unemployment rapidly rose to, say, 30%-50% because of automation? Would they target only robots, or, more likely, anything and anyone related to automation? How about destruction of internet infrastructure and data ce

  • Free health care;
    Late term abortion legal until age 8;
    Generous guaranteed income;
    Allow widespread use of killer robots by military;
    Tax arab oil as it comes out of the ground over THERE;
    (see above if they don't want to pay the tax);
    Split the justice into PENAL and CORRECTIONS;
    Allow dueling;
    Allow for hunting of a rival IF you serve 5 years' first (but
    the rival can kill you anytime);
    If you are military, government worker; or on an entitlement,
    such as Welfare, Food Stamps, etc. you don't get to VOTE
    until you ar

  • does not lower your own taxes. It never does. Government just finds something new to spend the money on. And the new money sink is never the thing you wanted.

  • by rossz ( 67331 ) <<ten.rekibkeeg> <ta> <ergo>> on Friday February 17, 2017 @11:29PM (#53890553) Homepage Journal

    Let's add a massive tax on companies that use contractors excessively because they want to avoid paying benefits.

  • First, drop tax rates. Maybe to 5% max. Next, make the tax a gross revenue tax (my state already levies one of these at a low rate). Finally, allow only one deduction: W-2 wages paid to US persons.

  • Then tax the crap out of him.

    Problem solved.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Friday February 17, 2017 @11:54PM (#53890621) Journal

    Bill Gates.... how far you're fallen! Or maybe, Bill Gates ... your good fortune only struck once!
    Whatever the deal is, he completely changed ever since he had to fight the Federal govt. over the monopolistic practices lawsuits.
    Now, he just spouts off disturbing ideas and trite "predictions of the future of tech".

    Taxing automation to slow down the speed of its utilization is really pretty much the equivalent of proposing, back when he wanted "a PC on every desktop", that it was all going way too fast, requiring heavy taxes on anyone using a personal computer. I mean otherwise? Look how many people the technology would put out of work, in ALL different fields!

    As far as I'm concerned, technologies like A.I. have a *long* way to go to become viable. Everything we've been sold so far as "artificial intelligence" has NO intelligence at all! It's taken decades to get things to a state where you can give a computer a voice command and it understands your speech reliably enough not to be frustrating. And we've gotten pretty good at making computers speak without rambling in monotone. But these pieces just allow fakery ... personal assistants like Siri or Cortana. But they wouldn't even understand who is "mom" and who is "dad" in a family, or who your boss is, if you didn't tag it first in your contact list on your device!

    All of this fear of robots taking all the jobs is nonsense. If we keep progressing as fast as possible, we've still got a L-O-N-G way to go. People are afraid of things like self-driving vehicles. And sure, that's disruptive. But that just happens to be ONE area where huge amounts of money are going into R&D to make it work. The tech you find in a Tesla or in a self-driving truck doesn't really translate to an ability to do anything else. It just knows how to make a wheeled vehicle follow the rules of a public road or highway and travel between points.

    A whole lot of assembly work going on in today's factories is already automated. There's not THAT much more automation to do, and you get diminishing returns as you spend more money for more complex machinery to replace the last 100, last 50 and then last 25 workers in a particular facility. For example? I used to work for a place that heat-treated and finished various metals. They had automation for things like hammering a material into shape, so people didn't sit out in the shop with giant sledgehammers, banging on parts by hand anymore. But you still needed humans to inspect all the parts as they went through the ovens and baths, running "recipes" programmed into the systems. Almost like a gourmet chef, they had to make judgement calls during the middle of processes to see if a batch was turning out as intended or not. And sometimes, if something wasn't coming out right - they had to cancel things so more material wasn't wasted, before trying again. New customers or new orders were always asking for different things, so you needed humans to translate all of those requests into results. Automation would have been more complete in such a place if they only did specific things to specific parts, the same way every time. But that's not what people outsourced work to them for. (If it was that easy, places would just heat treat or finish the metals in-house!)

  • We can all say it is still possible to find jobs, and by working smart and learning new skills you can always make yourself useful, hence get a job.

    In reality, there will be huge gaps for people. If someone over 40, with little learning capacity (not everyone has 160 IQ), is out of a job, he or she will have difficulty in finding a new one. We know from IT industry that it is even difficult for us. Yes I know, we can advance our career, start own consulting business. But there will still be many without the

  • With all those robots taking over our jobs, why should we have to do any jobs in the first place? Shouldn't ongoing automation give us more free time instead?

    It is a quite fundamental question no-one seems to ask. Why do we have such thing as employment? Is it to produce things for other people to use (which robots can do for us), or is it for other reasons entirely?

    Jobs and employment for a way of distributing money - and with it, the goods and services produced by those people. Now robots may come in and

  • It took jobs of countless airline staff. Passengers, especially business class, do not have to fly to talk or view an object. After 2001 airline industry became different.

    Also training courses, books, mail, etc. It is different now too.
  • by golodh ( 893453 ) on Saturday February 18, 2017 @07:03AM (#53891309)
    Mr. Gates is probably on the money.

    Just consider this: in today's society a significant proportion of people (US citizens) are out of work. It's not that they are useless trash ... but by and large they're not worth the wages they need to support a normal life. The labour market has determined that they are surplus to requirements.

    The reasons they are discarded vary.

    Mostly it's competition from within. Companies always shop for the best price performance ratio. In production machinery, printers, staples, and employees. So they sort applicants and current workers by price-performance ratio, and try to make their workforce structure resemble as much as possible the optimum available in the job market. Through hire and fire policy. Maintaining that "best match" with the labour market is the main reason companies have an HR department. No hard feelings, just business.

    Competition can also come from outside though. Examples are H1B visa and illegal immigrants from Mexico. Please note that there could never have been any issue whatsoever with illegal immigrants if employers weren't prepared to employ undocumented applicants. But they are ... because it benefits them directly. H1B immigrants are the clearest example of people being selected on basis of their cost/benefit ratio that I know of.

    Approximately the same holds for automation. Throughout the ages, as technology advanced people were expelled from one type of function (e.g. agriculture, manufacturing, mining) and had to seek employ in another function (farmers becoming labourers, labourers going to work in the service industries, etc.). An example is the industrial revolution. Historically that has led to a massive shift in the job market (farming to industry), unemployment, a large drop in wages, terrible working conditions, misery, and widespread exploitation of people by employers. Society finally regained its equilibrium after a century or so, in part due to the threat of revolution.

    The only difference is that the current technology is poised to make certain groups of people uneconomical to employ. It's not just that their jobs disappear, it's jobs of the kind they are capable of doing become prone to being automated.

    Take the 6 mln. or so truckers.we have now. We can replace one third of them with self-driving trucks, at huge benefits. Now what other work would somebody who likes being a trucker be good at? Not sitting indoors and shuffling paper I suppose.

    Take the car industry. Plants today are highly robotised. Cheaper, better, more flexible. More automobile workers surplus to requirements. What type of work would they be good at? What kind of work are they trained for?

    Take scores of people in administrative functions like the insurance industry. Doing administration and processing claims can increasingly be done by software. AI or not. Lets replace them. Miners (remember those hopeful Trump voters in mining villages) are on the way out because coal is being pushed out of the market and not coming back.

    Take ready made products. Those can be made far cheaper abroad and then shipped to the US. Despite the little temper tantrums by Pres. Trump and his supporters it's not economically feasible for the US to stop that. Other economies would overtake the US and start dominating it. So it's probably not going to happen to any meaningful degree for any meaningful length of time.

    The list of labour displacing developments goes on. And on.

    All this wouldn't be a problem if we could readily think of other (paid !) work we could let the freshly turned-surplus-to-requirements workers do. But can we? Really?

    I don't see it and I'm no longer optimistic we will think of something genuinely new.

    In any event, we have limited options to respond.

    We could delay or even *temporarily) halt the economic mechanisms that push workers into the surplus bin. And cut our own throat, economically speaking.

    We could simply tell

If this is a service economy, why is the service so bad?

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