‘AI Godfather’ Says AI ‘Will Take Many Everyday Jobs’ and Urges Britain to Introduce Universal Basic Income

Geoffrey Hinton, Godfather of AI

Computer scientist Geoffrey Hinton, often called “the godfather of AI,” worries that the newfangled technology will replace many workers doing “everyday jobs.” He has urged the UK government to introduce a universal basic income to minimize the impact of AI.

Since its emergence, artificial intelligence (AI) has generated mixed reactions. Some have positioned it as a potential equalizer, suggesting that tools like ChatGPT could benefit employees who struggle with certain aspects of their work. Conversely, critics have raised concerns about the technology’s potential to exacerbate existing inequalities.

Hinton, a pioneer in the field of neural networks, has emerged as an outspoken critic of the potential dangers associated with AI. After leaving Google last year, he expressed concerns about the impact of technology on society.

Hinton joins those who believe AI can harm people, recently telling the BBC that he is “afraid of AI taking over many everyday jobs.”

Guaranteed income: a safety net in the age of AI

“I was consulted by people in Downing Street,” he said. Hinton advocated a universal basic income (UBI) to solve this problem. For those who don’t know, UBI refers to a system of recurring cash payments distributed to all adults within a given population, regardless of their wealth or employment status.

Recipients have complete freedom over how they spend the money. UBI has gained significant traction among AI researchers, futurists, and industry leaders as a potential solution to mitigate the economic disruptions potentially caused by AI.

A 2018 study conducted in Alaska provided further evidence for the potential of a universal basic income (UBI). The study’s findings suggested that offering unconditional cash transfers did not discourage work. As a result, the UBI is gaining popularity in countries such as South Africa, Kenya and India as a potential tool to tackle poverty.

Several cities and states in the US have experimented with guaranteed basic incomes, which provide no-obligation monthly payments to a specific group of people. Hinton warns that while AI boosts productivity and prosperity, it could worsen inequality if left unchecked.

He fears job losses and calls for government intervention to prevent this negative social impact. Hinton sounded the alarm about the development of AI and urged a cautious approach. He believes AI could pose an extinction-level threat to humanity within five to 20 years.

Even proponents of rapid AI development recognize the need for government intervention. Recurring payments to redistribute wealth are gaining popularity as a possible solution.

OpenAI CEO experiments with UBI: can technology solve inequality?

Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and a leading figure in the race for artificial general intelligence, is also conducting his experiment on a universal basic income. The results are expected to be announced soon.

Altman proposes “universal basic computing” as an alternative to a traditional UBI. This concept would give everyone access to the capabilities of a powerful future language model, such as GPT-7, instead of direct cash payments.

“Everyone gets a piece of the computing power of GPT -7,” he said on the “All-In” podcast. “They can use it, they can resell it, they can donate it to someone to use for cancer research.”

While universal basic income offers some benefits, it also poses several challenges. In 2023, it was announced that universal basic income would be trialled with randomly selected but monitored groups in Britain by the think tank Autonomy. Although the results have yet to be published, there were several pros and cons to take into account, namely:

Positives

  • UBI focuses on income security

The UBI can potentially be a powerful instrument in combating poverty and inequality. UBI would directly increase income levels by providing a regular, unconditional cash payment, especially for those at the bottom of the economic ladder.

  • The impact of UBI goes beyond money

The impact of the UBI extends beyond finances and potentially improves health and well-being. Higher income could lead to better access to nutrition and healthcare, reducing pressure on public services.

  • UBI reduces administration costs

The UBI could streamline social security by eliminating complex eligibility checks and freeing up resources for the DWP to better support employment initiatives.

Cons

The biggest disadvantage of a UBI is the high price tag. While effective, a basic income high enough to make a difference may be prohibitively expensive. Targeted programs, while questionable in effectiveness, offer a potentially cheaper solution.

  • The UBI may prevent some people from working more

The impact of the UBI on employment needs to be clarified. Proponents claim it frees up job seekers for better matches, increasing productivity. However, it could also deter some from working more.

  • Financing UBI may require higher taxes

Implementing a UBI could require substantial tax increases for all income groups. While the goal is to increase the incomes of the most disadvantaged, these tax increases may dampen some motivation, especially among higher earners, to work more. This could hamper overall economic growth.

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