In a recent interview Microsoft founder Bill Gates said robots who replace human workers should incur taxes equivalent to that worker’s income taxes.
Gates argues that these taxes, paid by a robot's owners or makers, would be used to help fund labor force retraining. Former factory workers, drivers, and cashiers would be transitioned to health services, education, or other fields where human workers will remain vital.
Such a policy would intentionally “slow down the speed of that adoption (of automation) somewhat,” giving more time to manage the broader transition, Gates argues.
“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed . . . If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”
Gates says, the impact of robotics and artificial intelligence in the next 20 years will be a much more concentrated version of the steady, incremental displacement that was common throughout the 20th century. The market alone won’t be able to deal with the speed of that transition.
And automation won't be allowed to thrive if the public resists it.
“It is really bad if people overall have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm . . . And, you know, taxation is certainly a better way to handle it than just banning some elements of it.”