Should Robots Pay Taxes? 

The quandary persists: how do we benefit from more workplace automation without leaving human workers behind?

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has proposed an answer that may make automation more manageable at a time when we’re still figuring out the costs to a human workforce.

In a recent interview with Quartz, Gates suggested that taxing worker robots could help mitigate the price we pay when machines are integrated into the positions once held by human workers.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Slow Down Innovation To Help Humans Adapt?
With the hypothetical robot tax, Gates explained a number of effects that might make the transition into widespread automation a bit smoother.

The funds generated by the tax could be used to finance training for jobs that are understaffed and not easy filled by robots or AI technology, such as care resources for the sick and elderly, primary and special needs education, and other positions that require one-on-one human interaction.

The tax could also curb the speed of automation, giving humans more time to adapt and mange worker displacement that can result from the latest labor saving technology.

Image Source: Wikimedia

Keep Humans Enthused, Not Afraid
Gates also said that continued worker displacement due to automation could be met with greater fear rather than enthusiasm if the human element is neglected.

By raising a tax and slowing the speed of AI and robot adoption, he said that policies could be developed to ensure worker transition programs are funded and implemented in communities that experience the biggest impact.

Gates said that a tax may be a better way to counter the negative effects of innovation, and help pace automation to more manageable speeds, rather than just banning certain elements deemed too detrimental to the human workforce.

Do We Need Government Policy On Worker Robots?
At the close of the interview, Gates also emphasized the need for a government role in how automation is implemented into society. Through a potential tax on innovation and more labor sources for strictly human jobs, he states that sectors like social services and education could be amped up.

What do you think about this idea? Do you think a “robot tax” could be one of the more immediate solutions to automation displacing human workers? Comment and tell us whether you think this is a good approach or a dead end.

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