We all know the robot revolution is coming. While it likely (or perhaps hopefully) won’t result in humanity being crushed beneath the metal boots of legions of Cyberdyne Series 70 Automated Fighting Infantry Units, the oncoming autonomous tech revolution will mean millions of people worldwide will suddenly find themselves rendered obsolete in the workforce. Robots can work longer and faster than humans and with more precision, and even operate in conditions not suited for us stinking meatsacks. Why pay to keep the factory room temperature and well-lit when robots can work in a dark, hot, oxygen-less environment? Back to your hovels, groundlings. Your replacements don’t even have eyes, how are they going to read those protest signs? Better luck next iteration.
Whether robots replace us or terminate us, it’s time to begin discussing how to not only protect human lives but also human dignity, according to tech entrepreneur and activist Andrew Yang. Yang is currently best known for founding Venture for America (VFA), a non-profit whose mission is mission is to encourage young people “to revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship,” although he might someday be remembered as the leader of the resistance. If there is a future. Yang made the comments concerning humanity’s struggle against the looming robot revolution during a recent interview with the Interesting People in Interesting Times podcast, claiming that current nation-state governments are unable or unwilling to address the systemic challenges that autonomous technology currently poses worldwide:
I believe that we need to start owning these realities and these challenges as a people, as a country, and as a society, and start being honest. I’m running for president to solve the big problems and to show that these things are not beyond us.
Yang even argues for the creation of what he calls a “parallel currency” which could be used to pay for services the current free market economy tends to ignore, which could potentially push society in a more utopian direction by rewarding socially-responsible, pro-human behaviors:
There are many things that the monetary market right now will not value appropriately: raising children, arts and creativity, caring for the elderly, environmental sustainability, even science. My plan would be to create a new currency and put the new currency against it. You can trade [these new digital currency points] and have this parallel economy based around things that we know are good.
Yang recently published his manifesto of sorts titled The War on Normal People: The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future. The book argues that since artificial intelligence and robotics are stripping jobs away from millions of people, it’s time to enact a universal basic income to protect human dignity.
Yang’s current press tour and book are all a build-up to his potential presidential run in the 2020 elections, which even already has a campaign website and catchy slogan (“Let’s Put Humanity First”). Can an anti-robot candidate win in today’s political climate? Or would we have better luck with an anti-reptilian?