Robots cannot de-toil humans

Prophecy of Ayn Rand comes more and more true. Main industrialists of our era are more and more openly pleading for a future in which an individual would be totally subordinated to collective.

Elon Musk with his prediction about universal basic income (UBI) is a prime example.

His argument for UBI rests on this assumption:

In March, President Barack Obama warned Congress about the looming threat of job loss, based on several reports that found that as much as 50% of jobs could be replaced by robots by 2030.

From this presumption Elon concludes that since those people will not have anything to do, and since all added value is going to be generated by robots, it will be necessary to remunerate humans through mechanisms of UBI.

Elon, have you ever heard about industrial revolution?

Let me be clear: robots are going to develop and are going to play more and more important role not only in production of goods but also in everyday life. They will replace certain traditional production lines and certain everyday habits like steam engines replaced traditional production in 19th century and like Otto engine replaced horse carriages with cars. New technologies do not make all people unnecessary, but only those that do not adapt to the new environment. On the contrary: history proves with 100% accuracy that new technologies create new jobs.

Elon Musk and Barack Obama are in fact behaving like carriage drivers in the year 1900; they see the world as static entity frozen in the past and cars as threats that are going to change the way how added value was created in the past.

Elon Musk as visionary and creator of Tesla as being stuck in the past. Isn’t such claim a bit outrageous? How could a techno inventor be so stupid not to understand all potentials of new technologies?

Elon, why do you hate humans and love the State?

This apparent paradox resolves immediately after we understand business model of both Obama and Musk. Tesla heavily depends on subventions. Not only direct subventions to final products, electric cars, but much more to indirect subventions to electricity from renewable sources. Renewable energy producers are subsidized with 400% or even higher premium in some European countries on their product. For that reason such energy in reality lowers prices. But prices are lowered for additional reason of tremendous surplus of energy in periods when there is abundance of renewable energy available. So we now have a situation in which an investor in renewables cannot fail even if market price of electricity goes to zero. For that reason renewable energy sector attracts new investments. For so long as traditional electricity producers exist that fill electricity void in times when renewables are not available, everything goes smooth. We all forget that we in fact pay much higher price of electricity through various visible and not visible taxes that boost renewables. Elon Musk business model thus relies on taxes much more than on market economy. He relies on subsidized markets. Subsidized markets are not markets but state planned economy. Economy planned by Obama an other world etatists that in fact prevailed in the second part of 20th century.

Elon, why don’t you think about plants?

But it is not only history that proves new technologies as creators of new jobs, but simple economic calculation as well. Elon Musk lives in an imaginary world of no competition. He thinks that if robots take over all work no one is going to strive for even better, more productive robots. I speculate that he is thinking about robots that develop better robots. It might even happen that robots would compete among themselves without human interference. We could live like angels while robots would do all dirty jobs including stock exchange transactions and lobbying. Whow! We might think that this would really prove that there would be no need for humans to toil. That would really be something so new on Earth that would completely change our lives and our economy.

Something completely new on earth? Give me a break! Don’t we already have plants and animals that reproduce, upgrade their fitness and evolve on the basis of the laws of evolution that is based on basic principle of limited resources? Robots in the form of plants and animals already exist. Does that mean that there is no place for us, humans, to create value for the purpose of accumulating better resources? If robots ever develop to the level of plants and animals, they will simply fit into an ecosystem and provide new environmental factor that we all, humans, plants and animals will have to take in account while striving to produce as much added values as possible. UBI on the basis of such picture is a bromide seriously hampering human potentials.

Elon Runs Atlas

What becomes sooner or later clear in every state planned economy is a complete lack of value creation feeling. Workers are remunerated and whole society and not only Unions fight for fair redistribution of wealth while wealth is produced »somewhere else« (passive voice by intention). Someone else works for us and so our sole job is to redistribute such wealth. This heaven like utopia only gets objectivized with robots in Musk interpretation. Should Ayn Rand still live, Elon Musk would be major negative role model for Atlas Shrugged.

Andrej Drapal