September 2 2017

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// Alaska's state sponsored socialism is popular. Last week Mark Zuckerberg stopped in Homer, AK as part of his I'm-not-running-for-President-but-did-I-elect-this-one-and-for-that-I'm-sorry tour. He took to Facebook to pen his delight with Alaska's Permanent Dividend Fund - a mechanism to annually deliver revenue generated from leasing out oil rights back to Alaskans.  He views concepts like these as a pathway to fund a universal basic income. The post is loaded with problematic language about why countries should be run like corporations (sound familiar?) and why we should apply the principles of fiduciary responsibility to municipalities:

"Seeing how Alaska put this dividend in place reminded me of a lesson I learned early at Facebook: organizations think profoundly differently when they're profitable than when they're in debt. When you're losing money, your mentality is largely about survival. But when you're profitable, you're confident about your future and you look for opportunities to invest and grow further. Alaska's economy has historically created this winning mentality, which has led to this basic income. That may be a lesson for the rest of the country as well."

The radical idea at the heart of this confused point is not about running a clean balance sheet but about what happens when you disrupt the flow of natural resources to the capitalist class. The problem with impoverished, opioid-ridden Vermont is not that they don't think like a business. It's that they sold their air, fish, water, forest, and hunting rights to an investor class designed to extract value without returning any to the indigenous owners. In fact, a recent study predicted that Vermont could extend up to $10,000 a year to all residents through the shared revenue from leases on natural and social assets. 

// Is it unethical for me to not tell my employer I’ve automated my job?

// Congress is starting to talk about AI. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) recently introduced a bill to both define AI and create a committee to study it. In the same week, Elon Musk, who usually takes an antagonistic position to government intervention, pleaded for regulation of AI. "AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization," he said. “I’m against overregulation for sure. But man, I think with we’ve got to get on that with AI, pronto.”

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Quartz
Inside China's Experiment to Find Friends for 230 Million Old People
(click through to see a great video of robots that provide emotional aide to elderly Chinese)

China needs robots to care for its large, and growing, elderly population—it’s home to a quarter of the world’s seniors—because it can hardly rely on the one-child generation. As fewer Chinese are able to care for their aging parents, the number of retirement homes nationwide is mushrooming.

The New Republic
What Zuckerberg Gets Wrong About Universal Basic Income

First, the idea that UBI has bipartisan appeal is disingenuous. The left would have a policy that redistributes wealth by funding UBI through a more progressive tax scheme or the diverting of capital income. But libertarians like Charles Murray argue for a UBI that completely scraps our existing welfare state, including programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and housing subsidies. This would be extremely regressive, since money currently directed towards the poor would instead be spread out for a basic income for all. And certain benefits like health insurance can’t effectively be replaced with cash.

The Guardian
Fully Automated Luxury Communism

“There is a tendency in capitalism to automate labor, to turn things previously done by humans into automated functions,” says Aaron Bastani, co-founder of Novara Media. “In recognition of that, then the only utopian demand can be for the full automation of everything and common ownership of that which is automated.”

Bastani and fellow luxury communists believe that this era of rapid change is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting not for profit but for the people.

“The demand would be a 10- or 12-hour working week, a guaranteed social wage, universally guaranteed housing, education, healthcare and so on,” he says. “There may be some work that will still need to be done by humans, like quality control, but it would be minimal.” Humanity would get its cybernetic meadow, tended to by machines of loving grace.

The Verge
Robots and AIs Are Going to Make Social Inequality Even Worse

For example, the demand for paralegals and similar professions is likely to be reduced over the coming years as artificial intelligence is trained to handle more administrative tasks. In the UK more than 350,000 paralegals, payroll managers, and bookkeepers could lose their jobs if automated systems can do the same work.

“Traditionally, jobs like these have been a vehicle for social mobility,” Sutton Trust research manager Carl Cullinane tells The Verge. Cullinane says that for individuals who weren’t able to attend university or get particular qualifications, semi-administrative jobs are often a way in to professional industries. “But because they don’t require more advanced skills they’re likely to be vulnerable to automation,” he says.