-As automated solutions continue to replace human workers, billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft Cofounder Bill Gates believes that the lost revenue that funds social service programs should be made up for via a robot tax.
According to Quartz, Gates described the situation of a person earning a salary and paying a portion of that income to the government in taxes being replaced by a robot that does not pay anything as unsustainable.
“What the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today and free up labor — let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class sizes [and] helping kids with special needs,” Gates said in a recent interview with Quartz.
If a tax was imposed on the companies’ use of robots, Gates believes that money could then be used to finance jobs for people who take care of the elderly or work with children, for which humans are well-suited and there is an unmet need.
“You know, all of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique. And we still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there,” Gates explained.
“So, if you can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces, and financially and training-wise and fulfillment-wise have that person go off and do these other things, then you’re net ahead. But you can’t just give up that income tax, because that’s part of how you’ve been funding that level of human workers,” he continued.
Generating profits from labor-saving efficiency is something Gates said can be done without the risk of dis-incentivizing innovation.
“At a time when people are saying that the arrival of that robot is a net loss because of displacement, you ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed of that adoption somewhat to figure out, ‘OK, what about the communities where this has a particularly big impact? Which transition programs have worked and what type of funding do those require?’” he noted.
In his opinion, the government has a big role to play in helping to solve for the inequity that the job displacement by robots will bring versus it being the sole responsibility of businesses to figure out.