Presidential candidate Andrew Yang talks A.I. and a universal payout

Andrew Yang is the CEO and founder of Venture for America and just so happens to be running for president in 2020. Today, our very own Jeremy Kaplan sat down with Yang to not talk about politics, but to shed light on what the future with artificial intelligence looks like and how a universal payout could make the future not seem so daunting.

Yang has been a “serial entrepreneur” for decades now and is driven by statistics and data. He believes that common jobs will be replaced by A.I. and to combat the loss of jobs he came up with a “Freedom Dividend”, where everyone between the ages of 18 and 64 will receive $1,000 every month. He mentions that retail jobs are the most common jobs in America and since the introduction of online shopping and more importantly Amazon, larger retailers are being forced to close there doors, which mean fewer jobs for the average American.

Another job that will be gone is truck drivers, because of the introduction of self-driving cars. Volvo has just introduced self-driving trucks to start working at a mine in Norway. Yang went into detail about how it would the introduction of his Freedom Dividend would help.

“Another thing you might not think of as A.I. is self-driving cars and trucks, and self-driving trucks, in particular, are going to be very devastating to the 3.5 million Americans who are truck drivers right now, it’s the most common job in 29 states. If you see you these things coming in the next five to 10 years you start reflecting on what a meaningful solution will be and one of the solutions, I proposed is a universal basic income of $1,000 per American adult, which I have christened the Freedom Dividend because Americans like the word freedom.”

But how would we pay for something that gives each American $1,000 per month?

“The headline cost would be about $2.4 trillion per year … it sounds like a lot, but for context, our economy is grown to $19 trillion, up $4 trillion in the last 10 years alone, and the federal budget is around $4 trillion,” Yang explains. “So the big change we would need to make to pay for the Freedom Dividend is right now the huge winners are going to be Amazon, Google, Facebook, really the bigger companies that are going to capture the gains of A.I. and big data and the American public is going to see very little of that … so what we need to do is join every other advanced economy and have a value-added tax which would then give the public a sliver of every Amazon purchase or every Google search, and because our economy is so massive a value-added tax at even half the European level would generate $800 billion in new revenue.”

On top of that, Yang accounted for the $800 billion we currently spend on welfare programs, plus the economic growth we would experience by giving Americans the Freedom Dividend would pay for the $2.4 trillion.

With the rise of A.I., there will be an introduction to new jobs, but as Yang mentions those jobs won’t be suitable for the people whose jobs were replaced in the first place.

“By the numbers, it’s definitely creating jobs but it’s creating smaller numbers of different jobs, in different places, for different people, with different skills than the folks that are being displaced.”

With the Freedom Dividend, Yang mentions that people will have the ability to get trained in a new skill. Next, Yang talked about millennials and how they get a bad name for things that are out of their control.

“Young people are very concerned about their future … they are graduating from school with all this debt and then they are having trouble finding a stable job that will really provide them a ladder upwards and they know it … and the worst is that we blame young people for it … I mean why has college become two in a half times for expensive than when we went to school.”

Lastly, Yang mentions that there are studies where a universal payout would make people’s lives demonstrably better and would even give people more confidence in starting their own business.

Yang’s book The War on Normal People is out everywhere, and he can also be reached on his Twitter and website.

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