The Freedom Dividend.
Andrew Yang’s idea of a Freedom Dividend and the motivation behind why such a dividend is needed comes close to highlighting an endemic issue that exists for as long as humans have been alive.
Andrew believes that a dividend is needed due to automation eventually replacing people. However, I do not believe that this is a proper interpretation of the situation. Imagine a future, where the singularity is real; we are able to download our consciousness into the cloud. Now imagine that this singularity does not preclude us from maintaining our physical forms, thus, essentially we have both our original body and a digital clone of ourselves. Since many jobs nowadays are all remote, imagine a scenario where we can seek employment via our digital clones, how would that look like from an outside observer? It would seem like we (the physical we) would receive a lump sum every month without having to do any work at all. This, I assert, is the true nature of UBI.
However, now imagine a future where we do not have ownership of our digital clones. This is not too far fetched as we already do not own the infrastructure necessary to maintain a digital clone. Many of the compute power required would exist on the cloud, owned by Big Tech; of which, they control our access to our own digital clone. And even if we manage to purchase the hardware required to run our digital clones, the anti-right-to-repair movement wants to prevent our access to maintaining such hardware.
This is the enslavement of our digital cousciousness.
The road to digital enslavement.
To build automated devices or software requires the input of human beings. Sometimes, it’s literally using human input to train neural networks to become proficient at a certain task. The input it’s training on is essentially a subset of ourselves. Thus, though these automations are not alive, they are bred from us.
These corporations employ us so that we train the automatons that will eventually replace us. It’s as if, we are hired to bear children who will be enslaved by these corporations; and once we have beared children, we are no longer useful to these corporations, and thus tossed aside.
While Andrew’s idea of a dividend comes from a good motivation, it does not do enough to ensure our continued existence as free people. If we allow Big Tech to maintain the infrastructure for these automated processes and if we allow the Big Tech to maintain ownership of the intellectual property that we create, we are essentially signing away our rights to our own digital souls. While many might think that this is some unrealistic reality, Big Tech is already working on the infrastructure to support such a scenario. It is the incredulity of thinking that we can ever have digital copies of ourselves that will blindside us. However, it’s already happening. Everytime you get curated Facebook feeds, everytime Gmail predicts what you’re going to type out next, everytime you get a sales email from Target, these companies are essentially interrogating a digital copy of you to get answers from you. While this digital copy isn’t alive, with enough time and technology, this copy will be alive.
The persistence of slavery.
I assert that slavery has always been motivated by greed. By having a low-cost to free workforce, it allowed the rich to become richer. Thus, the enslavement of humans have not changed. Only the form of slavery has changed. However, the form of slavery has changed only because of modernization.
In the pre-industrialized past, the one limiting factor for wealth is shear brute strength. They needed bodies to do the work in order to produce the goods which they can exchange for wealth.
As we’ve industrialized, brute strength was no longer required as that has been automated away, thus the form of slavery changed to fine-motor control. Women with fine motor control were needed to work the power looms; men needed both brute strength and fine motor control to work the iron mills and factories; children were needed to mine coal.
As the terrible mistreatment of human beings was exposed by the help of Sinclair’s The Jungle, and other muckrakers, the form of slavery had to evolve to be more insiduous. Thus, the idea of highschool and the blue collar worker was formed. Now, we can happily go to school and be guaranteed a job once we’ve graduated. This is distinctly different from the times of the industrial revolution. No longer are we mistreated. We can hold our heads high knowing that we’ve put in a hard day’s work, contributing to society by producing goods for our fellow man.
Then comes the house slaves.
As the post industrial boom continues, we transition from blue collar work to white collar work. The form of slavery is now mental rather than physical. Thinkers are employed to figure out how we can automate away the blue collar workers. Complex robots are created to replace the work of humans.
It should also be no surprise that there are similarities between the dynamic of white collar and blue collar workers; and the house slaves and field slaves. Factory assembly line workers come to hate the engineers who designed the machines that automated away the assembly line jobs. The engineers now can hold their heads high knowing they’ve put in a hard day’s work, contributing to society by alleviating their burdern of work.
In the end, we’re all still slaves.
As technology progresses, not only can we automate away the physical burden of work, but we can automate away the mental burden of work too. Artificial Intelligence replaces the need for human thought. We’re already halfway to creating AI that can write, compose music, program, drive, etc. How happy we must be at the prospect that are no longer needed by the rich; they proudly hold their heads up high, proclaiming that we are all now free people as they return to their harem of digital souls.