Labor Economics: UBI is not AI’s Future of Work

Guest Post By David Stephen

As machines get smarter and corporations adjust, post-layoffs to a downsized workforce, universal basic income [UBI] seen as an option is unlikely to sufficiently cover for what the future [of work] holds.

Labor Economics: UBI is not AI’s Future of Work

UBI, a program for regular pay without work, is a buzzing idea in the event that artificial intelligence replaces labor roles for humans across sectors.

The Future of Work

There has to be an overhaul of parts of the labor system to accommodate for likely changes in the coming years. As more people graduate from school into a workforce where machines can do many of the jobs, what work used to be has to be different.

One option that could lead that front is a tier structure, where people are hired on different tiers, but the last two are for capped hours, where pay is lower than the minimum wage.

Simply, people are hired in a role where they have to work for 2 hours per stretch, in 3 intervals within 12 hours, where the pay is lower than the minimum wage: So, work for 2 hours and break for 2 hours, but the pay is really low.

The purpose is not to debar minimum wage, which some already say is not enough for living wage in many places, but to have a work system to accommodate more people, in what may become mass unemployment, with lack of purpose.

This model provides the ability to work, then rest, earn less, while possibilities for new frontiers are sought with intensity in different fields that may end up benefiting more people in sectors.

There are lots of jobs where people sit around, at times without demand. There are others where demand is so high, triggering stress for underpaid workers. There are others where little supervision is necessary as machine does most of the work, and so forth.

The motivation to keep people hired or adequately remunerated may wane, with the optionality of machines, so what work has to become may be different from the past and may also be beyond just free money, without any value.

There will be housing, transport and food subsidies to accommodate for the low pay for several roles in a way that would balance profit targets and extra perks, along with productivity spikes. Adjustments to labor economics models could also be important in calming employment anxieties from those worried about job security or related problems. This model applies to remote work. It will also redirect what it means to work near or far from one’s residence, with respect to rental costs, gasoline prices and hyperinflation.

David Stephen does research in theoretical neuroscience. He was a visiting scholar in medical entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, UIUC. He did research in computer vision at Universitat Rovira i Virgili, URV, Tarragona. He blogs on conscious experiences at

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