Bill Gates, in an interview with Quartz, was quoted saying that Robots that take human jobs should pay taxes. However, this is not a new idea and we may see a world in the future in which all social welfare programs are subsidized by Robotic work forces.
Since the days of Isaac Asimov’s Robots of Dawn series and other works in which Robots fill the most mundane jobs, the dangers and the promise of robotics have been discussed. But, the future is not necessary bleak or fraught with rampant unemployment due to the rise of the robots.
Rise of the Machines
The modern rise of machines replacing humans began with the production of the KUKA six axis robot. In 1981, Sankyo Seiki, Pentel and NEC sold the first generation of assembly robots developed by Hiroshi Makino of the University of Yamanashi. The automotive industry was the early adaptors of this technology. It eliminated and created jobs at the same time, a new skill was needed, the automation tech. The jobs created at the birth of the assembly robot, became a hire paying and more sophisticated it required more skill and education. It replaced lower paying jobs at the time.
In the 90s we saw a rise in robotic abilities and the rise in industrial robotics worldwide, with over 700,000 industrial robots in use at the beginning of January 2000. In 2001, personal robots began circulating with the Roomba, and iRobot robotics. Recent rise of robotics includes, drones, autonomous driving cars and AI systems put out by IBM, Amazon, Google, and more. Our industrial machines can perform quality checks, bend tubes, spoke accidents, and order our business supplies. As Artificial Intelligence improves, more of our basic jobs that require next to know education will be replaced by machines.
Economy and Robotics
Yes, machines have caused the loss of manufacturing jobs, but it has also helped create jobs although and it has created a need for a new breed of production worker. The challenge in the next decade is to ensure our new generation of workers are prepared for the modern manufacturing plant. The only viable solution as I see it would be an educational and business direction change. The challenge is to have business that utilize robotics hire and train people in the use and maintenance of these machines.
Create apprenticeship type opportunities for people not college bound for pure engineering or other fields. Also, education at the high school and Jr. high level should begin preparing their students with programming and robotic opportunities along with core subjects of Mathematics, English, Science, English as well hopefully subsidized by Local Manufacturing plants and businesses invested in the local communities. This would help create a ready educated populous for positions with those plants after they graduate from High School. And it would elevate a few issues for those companies as well. Worker shortages and qualified individuals to fill positions locally.
So, to answer the question should robots pay taxes, the answer is Yes, well sort of. I think they should subsidize the local education system in which they operate. Investing in the local economy and wellbeing of the communities in which they are members. Governments should also encourage those companies that do offer such programs incentives to maintain educational programs, put on by businesses.
Should Robots pay Taxes
The short answer is yes, but not in the way that Gates prescribes. I find it wrong to tax robotic companies for utilizing technology to become more profitable and increase quality. But, I would like to see incentives and tax breaks for those that invest in the educational opportunities and apprenticeship programs to fix, maintain, operate, and program robotics. The challenge is not what governments can do for workers, but what businesses can do for workers.