The idea of granting a universal living wage to all members of society is an intriguing idea that has many possible effects that could transform society. First, I will look at AI and coming age of computer automation. Then I will look into the case for granting a universal living wage as the only reasonable response to the AI revolution. Third, I will look at the effect the wage would likely have on society in general. Finally, I will look at the specific effects a universal living wage would have on prostitution and trafficking.
With the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics gaining human-like abilities at a cost-effective price, the effect on the job market will be utterly shattering. Currently, there are robots on the market that are humanoid, can be visually taught a task and reliably repeat the task. The robots were about $100 000 last I checked and can work at the about 10% the speed of a skilled human. However, the robots can work 24/7/365, don’t take breaks, don’t require benefits nor shift changes and will quickly pay for themselves compared to a worker who needs to be continually paid.
Meanwhile, AI is advancing at shocking rates that most people cannot conceive of. Already computers are better at identifying animals or cars than people are. Yes, more accurate, with fewer errors and giving more specific responses. Computers can beat the best human players at Poker and the incredibly complex game Go. Computers are able to guide cars safely and reliably – and will soon greatly surpass a human’s ability to drive safely. Computer AI doctors are better at diagnosis of heart attacks than almost every doctor out there. Computers AI lawyers are much much faster and more accurate at determining case law and looking for legal precedents. And we are only in the first few years of AI renaissance.
Artificial Intelligence will take away a huge number of jobs. Almost all the jobs in the transportation sector are at risk from taxi to truck driver. When I saw taxi drivers protesting against uber drivers I thought, ‘Damn, that’s like being worried about servers breaking dishes on the Titanic.” Manufacturing jobs are also going to be first to go. Meanwhile, serving jobs at restaurants are being replaced with screens and cashiers at stores. For the first time, creative and white collar jobs are also at risk – even engineers are at risk of being replaced by intelligent algorithms. But unlike the great technological revolutions of the past which created huge numbers of new jobs, the very point of AI is to take the place of any human doing anything. Sure, some jobs will be created to program robots and maintain them…but far more will be lost.
Now factor in the fact that AI is beginning to teach itself. Soon, the capabilities of AI will explode as advances that used to take decades could come from weeks of computing time. Do not underestimate the impact that computers self-learning and experimenting will have. The speed that the machines will learn is almost completely beyond our human ability to grasp.
Now with AI and robots taking away human jobs at an unprecedented rate, how will we respond? People think that society will crumble because there will be almost no jobs left and massive unemployment and poverty. But really, having robots doing all the farming, energy production and taking care of daily tasks will liberate humans like never before. Unemployment is not a problem in a world were food, clothing and shelter are plentiful. Working for money is an old school concept as why would we choose to do unfulfilling work just to pass on the profits to the top 1%? Instead of allowing society to completely crumble with the robot makers and owners having all the wealth in the world and everyone else fighting over stale crumbs – we would have no choice but to introduce a universal living wage.
What is a universal living wage? It is money (wage) that is given to absolutely everyone (universal) which is enough to completely provide for all of one’s clothing, food, shelter and internet needs (living). A universal living wage (ULW) will provide a way of fairly distributing the benefits of society to the individuals within it. Think of it this way, if robots provide all the labour and it is not required to work anymore, why try and force everyone to work – especially within the old model of ‘wage work’.
Without a ULW, money will only flow towards the robot owners – and there will not be nearly enough money left flowing into the economy to maintain the economic system. With all the wealth concentrated in the hands of …say, 0.00001% of society, the economic system will completely crash, food shortages, hunger, starvation and disease will be the norm…all in an age where humans have tools that allow for every man, woman and child on the planet to have healthy, productive lives. No, the only real way out of that mess is to introduce a universal living wage. Sure, the robot makers will be rich beyond their wildest dreams…but if they don’t share the revolution and guillotine will quickly strip them of all their wealth –and their lives. Only a ULW can save them too. But what kind of terrible world will we live in if everyone becomes lazy and fat from lack of work?
The effect of a ULW will not be to turn everyone into couch potatoes – just the opposite. Think of it this way, would you do absolutely nothing if you had all your basic needs provided for? I certainly wouldn’t! I would use my free time to devote to the projects I want to complete but don’t have enough time to finish right now. Also, a universal living wage certainly won’t punish people for working more and doing things like creating their own businesses. Those that work the hardest will still have the most money and be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor. No, I think a ULW will create a new era of prosperity because people will be free to start businesses without fear of risk and lack of opportunity due to being tied to an unfulfilling job. Artists will be free to create – and contribute in ways currently unimagined by our profit-centered society. Basically, people will be freed and allowed to do all that they have dreamed of doing. Sure, some will lay back and sit on the couch, play video games and vegetate…but they probably already do that! Society will always have slackers – but with the rise of the robots, the robots will have the task of taking care of them, not the rest of us.
Finally, I can get to how a universal living wage will effect prostitution and human trafficking. First off, a ULW will not magically make either prostitution and human trafficking disappear. People will still be willing to trade money for sex. Why? Because people like to trade money for sex because they love sex – and others like having extra money and also enjoy sex. I can’t see how this type of exchange would disappear because it is so closely intertwined with human nature.
Before the old school feminists roll over and explode at the outrageous idea that human nature includes prostitution, let me explain. Lots of primates exchange food for sex. Human females frequently exchange sex for money and other material gains (eg. Marriage) – and yet feminists don’t seem to appreciate the fact that humans choose to do such things. But the main issue I have with prostitution is women and girls being forced to do such things. There is a huge difference in my mind between a prostitute (one who freely chooses to provide sexual services in exchange for money) and a prostituted woman (one who is forced to provide sexual services for the financial benefit of another.) The latter category will be greatly reduced because the hold that pimps and exploiters have over women will be greatly diminished by the mere fact that a woman’s financial security is provided by society and the offer of some security by a pimp as well as the fear that they will be a homeless beggar without the pimp is completely destroyed.
Meanwhile, sex workers who do it because they enjoy the work…will do it for the work and added money, knowing that they are doing it not out of desperation but out of choice.
Human trafficking will also be similarly diminished because the profits offered by selling humans into a financially predatory world – well, it will be a lot less predatory a world so the numbers sold will decline. Will the number of slaves, human trafficked girls and prostitutes completely disappear? Not at all. Violent and greedy men will still exist and they will still take pleasure in exploiting others. Pedophiles and rapists will still delight in the access to exploited children for them to molest – and these will provide a market for this form of crime.
My main point is, with a universal living wage, prostitution and human trafficking should decline by over 80% initially. Eventually if society and the stigma against sex work declines – as it likely will do to new generations raised on a steady diet of internet pornography from the age of 10-12 onwards – then the numbers of prostitutes will rebound somewhat. But the replacements will be willing and fully informed sex workers and NOT forced victims of sexual exploiters. The primary recruiting techniques currently involve the promise of marriage or relationships, advertisement for workers, employment agencies, promises of high wages or fine goods and finally violence and force. Many of these, especially the financial gains promised to poor girls – will virtually evaporate with a ULW. Demand, however, I suspect will remain fairly constant. And with demand considerably higher than supply, the real wages of prostitutes choosing to engage in such activities will no doubt rise.
Does prostitution currently exist due to the unequal status of women worldwide? Absolutely. Would a universal living wage make women equal? Probably more than anything else. Therefore a ULW will greatly reduce all forms of exploitative prostitution.
If I am misunderstand anything or have any blind spots on this, please let me know in the comments down below.