Silicon Valley is experimenting with a Universal Basic Income — and we should pay attention

“We’re about to experience a change in our economy on the scale of the agricultural or industrial revolution,” announced Sam Altman, the president of Y-Combinator, to a San Francisco audience.

Due to artificial intelligence, 62 percent of American low-skill jobs are at risk. The median probability of automation replacing the lowest-paid jobs is about 0.83, while jobs in higher-wage classes have a 0.31 to 0.04 chance of being automated. According to a 2013 report from Oxford, 50 percent of jobs could be replaced within the next 10 to 20 years — a claim supported by a McKinsey report that suggests the technology we have today could replace 45 percent of jobs right now.

If Altman is right, and this economic shift can be equated to the industrial revolution, this change will be an overwhelmingly positive phenomenon for future generations. In the meantime, we’ll face mass technological unemployment. This is why Altman is exploring the Universal Basic Income as a way of alleviating a problem that he, in part, helped to create.

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