When Bill Gates speaks up about technology, people tend to listen. So when he spoke to Quartz about the future of automation and how taxing robots should be considered as a real possibility, it caught some attention.
As the founder of Microsoft, there are few people on the planet who have helped to guide technological progression (at least in the realm of computing) as much as Gates over the course of his 42-year career.
The thrust of his argument is this: if robots replace human workers whose pay would otherwise be taxed, why then should the labour of the robots not also be subject to taxation?
Sure, part of the incentive for automation is to save money; but if it comes at the cost of reduced funding for government programs, then it only benefits the corporations looking to increase their already record-high profits. Instead of humans doing work and contributing part of their earnings towards the betterment of the country they call home, machines will work for nothing and contribute to no one but their corporate masters.
Although he is one of the richest people alive with a net worth of $85.5 billion as of February 2017, Gates is less concerned with profits as he is with people. His philanthropic career arguably dwarfs his corporate one, culminating (so far) in former US president Obama presenting Gates and his wife Melinda with the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year.
He thinks the potential benefits of taxing automated labour will make a difference further down the line, when most driving and warehouse jobs are fulfilled by robots. That revenue could be funnelled into human jobs - working with the elderly and children, along with other social programs which could use a much-needed boost.
That said, Gates has warned us in the past about the potential dangers of artificial superintelligence. How much worse will the inevitable robot uprising be if they hate paying taxes as much as humans do?
Let us know your thoughts on automation and the uses for this untapped tax revenue in the comments below!
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