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The robots are coming for our jobs. It’s time they paid our pensions too | Notice

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The Vulcan greeting phrase “Live long and prosper” rings true but also raises the question of who pays for all this prosperity. This is easier in fictional worlds, like Star Track, where this blessing originated. In the real world, it’s much more complex. In Germany, for example, it is working-age taxpayers who foot the bill for retirees, assuming that the next generation will do the same for them. This type of retirement system is known as a pay-as-you-go system; it’s an interesting little idea and, like many interesting little ideas in economics, it falls apart when reality hits.

With declining birth rates, fewer workers are able to work. As people live longer, more retirees need support. The result is a perfect storm in which the burden on the workforce becomes so unsustainable that it threatens the system.

The global fertility rate | Source: The Lancet

If you’re not German, don’t worry: Germans aren’t the only ones going through tough times. Birth rates are decreasing globally and life expectancy is increasing globally. In other words, most countries will have to tackle their own problems, some sooner than others.

Germany is not only a country that is aging too much for its own good; it is also one of the most automated economies in Europe. After experiencing Germany’s thirst for paper and pen first-hand, I couldn’t believe it either. If there are fewer hands on deck, why not ask a (metal) friend for help? Robots can enable us to generate higher output, more accurately and consistently, for longer, with less reliance on people.

It’s not just Germany that is filling the labor gap with robots. Although we’ve all heard about robots taking over our jobs, new research paints a different picture: robots don’t always come to push us out of work; in fact, quite often, they fill the niches left open by changing demographic dynamics. This is a more involved and complex process than the doom robots would have you believe.

That said, this still leaves room for cases where robots harm the job market, especially now that the AI ​​boom is taking automation to a whole new level. Additionally, there are signs that automation could reduce the availability of entry-level jobs, with robots also eliminating a variety of manual and service vacancies, from factory workers to baristas and kitchen workers. So whether they’re looking for a part-time job at a nearby Starbucks or their first full-time job after college, young people joining the workforce aren’t having an easy time, and it could well get worse as powerful AI finds its way to more robots.

This is where we come to the real-time bomb, especially for countries with a PAYG system and a relatively elderly population – Japan, Italy and Spain, for example. On the one hand, there are retirees whose numbers are increasing thanks to better health care and longer life expectancy. On the other hand, there is not only a shrinking workforce, there is a contracting labor market where more and more value is generated by robots, which do not have the habit of contributing to pension funds.

So who pays the bill?

Hypothetically speaking, there are still some escape routes. The powers that be could always raise taxes just to ensure that younger generations are locked into an economy where they will never be able to afford anything. The pressure on the workforce is already real and the idea of ​​raising the retirement age, another such measure, has already proven to be somewhat controversial.

We can also hope that robots will create an abundance of tangible goods – food, infrastructure, everything else – so that their owners can share some of them with local communities for free. This gives traditional corporations and their dubious goodwill too strong a hand in a society where corporations are already a little too comfortable, one might say. Additionally, multinational corporations, which dominate the automation sector, are pros at managing their cash flow and taxation in a way that benefits them, not the communities where they operate.

So even if San Francisco’s self-driving taxis don’t count as androids and don’t dream of electric sheep, some sort of tax could very well be in order. As machines increasingly contribute to value creation in the economy, everyone should benefit, not just those who own them. We need a whole new paradigm of value distribution.

As automation accelerates, its benefits must be distributed more equitably. Everyone should be part of the new automated economy, what some call the “economy of things,” and this distribution should be done in a way that does not give any specific party disproportionate influence in society. After all, this is one of the main problems with universal basic income, which places governments in the decisive role of sole life support for thousands, if not millions, of people.

Some revenue generated by the machines should be distributed to communities affected by these machines. It’s a simple idea that can have a huge impact. Under the current model, centralized multinational corporations eat all the cake. With this model, however, everyone gets a share, and every job lost to a robot means more money for humans. The game is no longer zero-sum; it is a positive-sum economy, which some might call a regenerative economy.

It’s time we embrace blockchain as the backbone of automation – networks in which everyone owns a stake and has a voice in which everyone has a voice. Blockchains have built-in shared ownership and can be programmed to automatically share a portion of each machine’s revenue with the community they serve. Imagine that, for a moment, automation gives you more time and resources for yourself, just like in science fiction novels.

Blockchain adoption indeed requires a tectonic shift, but half-hearted measures would hardly be enough to avert the crisis we face. As the world ages, AI-enabled robots will inevitably step in to fill the gap in human hands. Without decentralization, humans will struggle to make ends meet or rely on the mercy of a government or corporation. In chain, this will make everyone an actor in an innovative economy which is developing day by day.

Automation, done right, can be the answer to our demographic crisis. By combining it with blockchain technology, we can create systems that enable AI-driven automation to work for everyone, not just the elites, and ensure that as the world ages, he does not also become hungrier and poorer.

Max Thake

Max Thake

Max Thake is co-founder of peaq, the go-to blockchain for real-world applications, and EoT Labs, a software development and incubation organization supporting open source projects focused on the thing economy. Max is also a member of the Sigma Squared Society, a global community of founders under 26.

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