Although still considered something of a dark horse, US presidential candidate Andrew Yang continues to make waves due to his forward looking policy platform which also happens to be the most detailed of any US presidential candidate in recent history. Although Yang offers a detailed policy on just about every issue one could think of (as well as issues one might not have ever thought existed), his flagship policy revolves around how humans can deal with the literal rise of the machines.
The AI (artificial intelligence) revolution, the next generation of automation and the full digitalisation of the economy are all going to inexorably shape life throughout the remainder of the 21st century and beyond. As the world is quietly experiencing the initial phases of the 4th Industrial Revolution, the scary part is that individuals in leadership positions throughout the world are talking about it.
The silence on these issues that matter most is apparent throughout both the developed world and the developing world, even though in different ways, the rise of a “robo-economy” will effect people in all but the poorest and most remote places on earth.
Andrew Yang however has broken this mould by daring to both ask and answer the question: “what will normal people do in an automatic world”?
For Yang, the answer is that the revenue generated by AI, automation and digital data should be thought of as a national commodity in the same way that countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia think of oil as such. Yang also cites the example of the US state of Alaska which uses its oil revenue to pay all Alaskans a small but consistent monthly universal basic income.
Yang proposes a monthly $1,000 universal basic income for all Americans with no questions asked. Yang plans to raise the extra revenue needed to pay for his so-called Freedom Dividend by levying a national value added tax (VAT) at half the average European rate. This new VAT would be disproportionately paid for by revenue generated from big tech companies.
Whatever one thinks of Yang’s proposal, at least it is a new idea, a big idea and on the whole a good idea given the realities of 21st century economic trends which one must admit are starting to look more and more different from the realities of the 20th century.
But while Yang is focusing on how his policies can improve the lives of Americans, the wider world could also benefit from engaging in the debates that Yang has opened up. The rise in AI and next generation automation will not only impact production models but will impact the service sector, so-called white collar jobs, what is left of brick and mortar retail, where people live within a country (urban/suburban/rural etc.), immigration trends, the environment, traditional taxation models and traditional (aka outdated) arguments about “capitalism vs. socialism”.
How to move forward on all these issues bearing in mind that AI and automation will change the very nature of the questions that need to be asked is a discussion that needs to be held in just about every country on earth. To put it a different way, we all need an Andrew Yang.
Whether he becomes President of the United States in 2020 or not, one can only hope that Yang remains in politics. His very human voice is needed in an age where the rest of the candidates sound increasingly like yesterday’s robots.