A robot ate my job and all I got was this lousy welfare check.
A new survey says nearly half of Americans are OK with the idea of a "universal basic income," a monthly payment that could be funded by tax revenues and used as a safety net against job loss caused by, among other things, automation, artificial intelligence and similar tech developments.
Celebrated personalities such as Bill Gates and Stephen Hawking have expressed concern over the possibility of such job loss, and one researcher has forecast that 6 percent of all jobs in the US will be snatched by robots and other technologies by 2021. (We're not talking just blue collar workers here; Hawking has said that "the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes.")
The survey was commissioned by the Economic Security Project, a group that's devoted to exploring the possibility of a universal basic income and that counts among its associates Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and legal scholar and Internet activist Lawrence Lessig. ESP associate Misha Chellam gave an overview of findings on Medium on Monday.
While it looks like folks are open to the general idea of a UBI, things change when it comes to hashing out the details.
Forty-six percent supported the basic notion, with 35 percent against and 19 percent undecided. But only 33 percent of respondents liked the idea that recipients wouldn't be required to do some sort of work in exchange for payments. In addition, only 39 percent thought funding such a program with taxes was the way to go, and only 38 percent thought recipients should be able to use the payments for whatever they wanted.
Chellam called acceptance of the general idea of a universal basic income "a good first step" and said his group and others would have to focus on better communicating the pros and cons of a UBI to the public.
It's not clear whether robots would qualify for a UBI check when the next wave of tech developments tosses them out of work.
CNET's Andrew Morse contributed to this report.
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