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Elon Musk spoke again https://www.ccn.com/news/technology/elon-musk-predicts-no-job-universal-high-income/ and about Universal High Income? This should not be confused with UBI.

My question - why there is no political party or movement that focus on industrial and automation policies and that develops automation specifically. E.g. Musk will require 100B for computing power, but that is only 5-10% of the annual resources that are devoted to the greening. These policies could gather similar resrouces for the automation?

I know quite a lot of people who have earned good education, but works in different fields that are not related to their education. E.g. there is guy who has PhD from Swiss biotech department, yet he is taking MS in computer science and works as IT specialist. There is another guy with PhD in math, but he is in real estate. Their education would allow them to work on automation of drug industries on the formal methods for AI, etc. But the economy and policy is not using their talents for the common good.

The political movement could gather human resources and direct them into automation and bring incredible results.

Still - why not such movement?

Note added. I cannot remove Musk from my question, because it give context to the shape of the policies. E.g. Musk's x.ai today raised additional tranche of 6B$ investment for its development of large multimodal foudnational model. Musk's work on Optimus Gen 2 humanoid robot provides the insight how the physical work will be automated.

I am aware of UBI studies and Musk's proposal is unique. 1) it is about post scarcity and prosperity. UBI is set at the poverty level. 2) UBI proponents talk about redistribution and they ignore the opportunities of industrial policies, which may be exponential with the AI, if it is made reliable, explainable and manageable. And industrial policies are about giving opportunities to to research, product creation, do meaningful things for common good, I.e. automation. EU's RD investments are below US and China RD investments and Europe lacks this focus un technologies. So, there are a lot that industrial policies can do. Why there is collective market-command policy fir greening at incredible scale? There can be automation program at the similar scale and buildup.

So, please, dont delete my question. It us unique and interesting.

Important note added. There is transhumanist or transhumanism parties in the world. The US Transhumanist party is the most active and if I am not mistaken, it already holds one minor elected office. But transhumanism movement is quite undecided, without clear social vision, some are left, some right leaning. And attitudes towards UBI and UHI are divided. But, yes, Transhumanist (and e/acc) movement is even more bold that Musk - human augmentation, antiaging and youth regaining, rejuvenation, etc. The focus technologies is as strong as for Musk.

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  • There are often good reasons why a person does not work in the field where their main expertise/education lies - they feel that their real talent or interests lie elsewhere, or that they can contribute more to the society by doing something else. One is not obliged to spend all life the same thing that one did at 20 (except for people inn the Communist states.)
    – Morisco
    Commented May 27 at 13:03
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    I'd recommend removing Elon Musk from this question. If it's a question about Musk, the answer will focus on his credibility. But if the question is about Universal High Income, the answer will focus on its credibility.
    – codeMonkey
    Commented May 27 at 13:07
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    Vote to close because there doesn't seem to be a definition of Universal High Income and therefore how can we analyse it? The linked article says "Musk said that for this scenario to succeed, there would need to be a 'universal high income,' which he distinguished from universal basic income. However, he did not elaborate much on this concept." Also the question of why people don't work in the subject their degree is in is entirely separate.
    – Stuart F
    Commented May 27 at 13:12
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    Ummm, at the risk of being dumb, what is UHI? And how does it propose to avoid generating inflation, assuming it really is what it sounds like? Commented May 27 at 15:29
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    -1 for... overuse of anecdotes, overreliance on Musk as an expert and a near total lack of clarity about the program being proposed in the question. I don't buy the inflation thing as not everything will be robot-manufacturable at the same time, or indeed ever, yet high incomes will invite consumption across the spectrum of goods. And services. Commented May 27 at 15:55

5 Answers 5

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As best I can tell from this under-developed concept, UHI is a version of the Star Trek economy, where replicators, transporters, and holodecks are universally available to provide for human needs and indulgences. The Star Trek economy is a little different in that it has eliminated currency — people apparently just walk up and use the machines — while UHI seeks to sap off the profits of AI production to provide everyone with a decent, enjoyable income.

It's a nice fantasy, and an even nicer ideal, I'll grant that. But the question of why no political party or movement has tried to implement it has no answer that is nice or idealistic. Simply put:

  • Musk is offering an advanced technological form of communism. Musk even invokes some Marxist ideation: e.g., the phrase "people could pursue work out of interest rather than necessity" could come straight from Marx's writings. This would be rejected by any of the groups or movements that oppose communism.
  • Musk's technological communism, however, is based on a strange form of capitalism in which AI replaces the laboring class (and perhaps even the capitalist class). This would appall and terrify anyone with pro-Marxist leanings, since it's essentially the creation of an immortal, unfathomable, inhuman overlord which allows humans to exist out of the 'goodness' of its programmatic 'heart'. It's essentially The Matrix, without the convenience of a red pill to take one to a dreary freedom. Musk here — as I think is typical of his thinking — conflates liberty with wealth, as though the way to make people free is to throw money at them.
  • Musk's vision would necessarily imply the re-socialization or elimination of aggressively profit-driven, power-hungry, domination-oriented people — people like Musk himself, and most wealthy people, and most political aspirants — because such people would not be able to 'win' against AIs except by violence or subterfuge. So no mavericks (people unaligned to any specific beliefs except their own success) would take this concept seriously, and would only support it if it (temporarily) gave them access to the power they want for themselves.

Musk (like many mavericks) likes to spitball ideas, hoping that other people will throw money at them, and still other people will work out the fiddling technical details. Remember, Musk also once said that he was going to replace windshield wipers on Teslas with lasers that would evaporate the rain as it fell (for the problematics of that, see XKCDs laser umbrella video). As the saying goes, poor people are derided as crazy where rich people are honored as eccentric, and Musk is becoming (I think) a bit more 'eccentric' than most.

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    It may be true what you are saying. But I am still confused - haven't people the dream about better future? Haven't people dream about Heaven on the Earth? City on a Hill? Aren't people longing for the eradication of any poverty and suffering for all? If people have no those dreams then about what they are dreaming? About winning a Billion and investing it in the exploitation of other people? Is this the dream?
    – TomR
    Commented May 27 at 17:07
  • would appall and terrify anyone with pro-Marxist leanings Not only what you say, but this accumulation of industrial power would itself be predicated on leveraging capital and wealth to launch, at the initiative of some very big Capitalists. Wasn't cornering the means of productions, via access to wealth, precisely what seemed to incense Marx most? BTW, maybe more Ian Banks' Culture series sourced than Star Trek. The Culture worldbuilding really delves into this stuff. Commented May 27 at 17:07
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica - I think the primary reason no one has tried this is much simpler than any of the answers seem to be claiming. Quite simply, it's predicated on technology that does not exist yet, and is also far too vague to know what he is talking about. This is much more of an obstacle than being unable to map his ideas cleanly onto major political philosophies.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 27 at 19:20
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    I think another important point here is that while Elon Musk's proposals are vague and currently unachievable, his apparent requests for billions of dollars from the government and investors to reach these goals are very much in the here and now! And much of that money will end up in his own pockets. So quite apart from the merits of automation and basic income—and they do have some merits—what this essentially works out to is less a sincere policy proposal than a techno-utopian funding round.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 27 at 19:54
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    @TedWrigley - Heh, I would say stage 1. With all the stock manipulation and shady employment practices, whatever he can get away with seems about right.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 28 at 0:59
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The answer is pretty simple. No one has implemented his ideas, first and foremost, because the technology that he is talking about continues to not exist. And, secondarily, because it is unclear what he wants implemented.

His ideas seem to be premised on full automation of all industries necessary for human survival, if not all industries. Quite simply, despite some substantial advances in machine learning and robotics, technology is not at a level where this is feasible. For instance, robots capable of walking and performing other physical tasks are currently slow and very expensive. The most advanced machine learning models are three times as expensive as a Google search, or more likely, 100 times as expensive, and still sometimes tell me that "yogurt" has two instances of the letter "o." This does not account for the costs of training and retraining.

Obviously, no one can implement a policy based on widespread availability of technology that does not yet exist and whose closest existing competitors are unworkably expensive.

The other issue is that his ideas are sufficiently vague that it is unclear what it would mean to implement them.

For instance, universal high income is apparently obviously different from universal basic income. How? Isn't it simply universal basic income at a high level in a society where most work is automated? Universal basic income has, of course, essentially been implemented in various settings, albeit usually on a small scale.

If the idea is simply "providing everyone with some equal share of output that few of them have to work for," then the answer is that it has been implemented, through ideas like the Alaska Permanent Fund.

One cannot know whether his ideas have been implemented without him being clear about what they are.

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  • Many green technologies are being created on the fly, lot of science and innovation is being sponsored by Green Deal efforts and there can be results. Similar technooptimism can be for automation as well. Electric car was almost nonsense and now the battery technologues, charging networks, hydrogen tech is being created and becomes widespread.
    – TomR
    Commented May 27 at 20:20
  • @TomR - Electric cars have existed since the 1800s, and even now, few political parties are trying to "implement" them. Why would you expect any party or movement to implement ideas founded on technology that does not currently exist?
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 27 at 20:31
  • I am in the field of computer programming and I have some pretty advanced pet projects. It is not correctly to say, that the technology does not exist. The technology is agentic_AI where the AI has awareness of its knowledge gap and the AI can actively seek the knowledge or create the knowledge by reasonining (e.g. in case of math, philosophy, law), by inquiring for aditional information if there is need, by self-supervised training to achieve goals, by developing understanding. All these things are features of agency.
    – TomR
    Commented May 27 at 20:53
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    @TomR - Wonderful, and I am a mid-career data scientist with experience in large language model training. Now that we're done with the arguments from authority, buzzwords are not the same thing as workable engineering. Current machine learning models are still not capable of fully automating the things that you seem to think they can, let alone at an affordable or energetically favorable price point.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 27 at 20:57
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    So, to recap, you throw out the names of some general subfields of machine learning without precise arguments or data, say that GPT-5 will have some general set of capabilities despite, as far as I can tell, not working for the company that is developing this unreleased and unannounced software, and guess that those capabilities will specifically allow for Musk's dream of full automation of all essential industries at a workable price point. And to cap it all off, in so arguing, only prove my point that the technology does not currently exist.
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 27 at 21:07
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Elon Musk has no political credibility. He used to have some, when he was known for Tesla cars and SpaceX rockets, but his management of Twitter has destroyed his credibility. Among the more obvious problems:

  • Removing content moderation and un-banning many ... controversial posters.
  • That has damaged Twitter's advertising revenue, as advertisers object to their material appearing next to things they consider hatred and bigotry.
  • Messing up the account validation system, producing a plague of impersonation and damaging every honest poster's credibility.
  • Displaying erratic and egotistical behaviour, and getting Twitter's recommendation algorithm altered to support this.
  • Trying to kill off a very well-known brand name, in favour of "X", which just sounds like a mad science project.

Now, none of this is directly relevant to a basic income policy, but it does not indicate that Musk is good at solving social problems. He's effective at engineering problems, but more as a leader than a hands-on engineer.

He's also prejudiced many politicians against him by messing up the social network they all use. If the idea is sound, his own actions make it less likely that it will get serious consideration.

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    Don't forget throwing away one of the most recognised brand names and logos in the world in order to rename it "X".
    – F1Krazy
    Commented May 27 at 14:43
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    @F1Krazy: Thanks, added. Commented May 27 at 14:46
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    All more or less true, but also quite unrelated to this what appears to be some Muskian snake oil of a high order. Just because Musk screwed up Twitter doesn't mean he hasn't done clever things elsewhere. Conversely, just because he has had success w SpaceX and Tesla - engineering problems - doesn't mean he has any obvious insights on complex social/economic challenges (other than those on social networks, where he, I agree, has negative insight). Commented May 27 at 15:50
  • @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: Explained my reasoning better. Commented May 27 at 16:16
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Although many answers here have scorned on the idea from a practical perspective, to more directly answer if this is like a new thing... it's not. It somewhat reminds me of the 'superabundance communism' that's also been talked about in somewhat new terms like Fully Automated Luxury Communism . To quote the Guardian (2015) summary of the idea (which preceded the book by some years):

Supporters believe fully automated luxury communism is an opportunity to realise a post-work society, where machines do the heavy lifting and employment as we know it is a thing of the past

But more what you're asking about:

Bastani isn’t alone in evangelising an era of mass robo-luxury. Members of the leftwing group Plan C deploy the slogan “Luxury for all” in their agitations, and a sharply-designed Tumblr, Luxury Communism, trumpets sympathetic ideas. The maxim has been showing up at student protests. [...]

British luxury communism has its origins in the mid-00s protest movement, according to Plan C, when its members spotted the slogan “Luxury for All” at a demonstration in Berlin.

“It seemed to us that this demand neatly summed up the aims of a modern communist movement,” say Plan C members. They believe its tenets were initially inspired by Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy, wherein a socialist utopia is established on the Red Planet. A Pattern Language, a 1970s utopian tract written by three architects, was also an inspiration.

That (UK) Plan C is obscure enough not to get is own Wikipedia page though, and is overshadowed there by organizations with the same name where the C stands for something else. (I personally fail to see the claimed connection with A Pattern Language, at least based on the wiki summary of the latter book.)

“The vision of giving many, if not most, ordinary citizens vastly reduced workloads is a very old notion in utopian thought and writings,” says Howard Segal, professor of the history of science and technology at the University of Maine and author of Utopias: A Brief History. He points to Edward Bellamy’s industrial army in Looking Backward (1888) and the writings of the Technocrats in the mid-1900s. But luxury communism perhaps finds a more current cultural analogue in sci-fi visions such as Star Trek, with its replicators and egalitarian politics, or the late Iain Banks’ high-tech post-scarcity universe.

I see you also asked in the past about the practicality of the idea.

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‘There are also concerns about whether governments will be able to afford both UBI and a generous welfare state. As Dr Luke Martinelli noted quite succinctly in Bath University’s report for the Institute for Policy Research, “an affordable basic income would be inadequate, and an adequate basic income would be unaffordable.” A balance needs to be struck and it is an issue that Scotland would need to think very carefully about’ - Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, 2018

https://www.bath.ac.uk/case-studies/shaping-understanding-of-the-feasibility-of-universal-basic-income/

It's a matter of affordability. Policymakers are concerned that governments wouldn't be able to afford both UBI and a generous welfare state. As debt level rises, countries are less able to attract capital, and a lack of investment has a negative impact on GDP, so a policy like universal basic income sounds good, but isn't likely to be implemented without incurring significant negative consequences.

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  • This is the problem of current UBI research and proposals - they are not tied to automation enhancing industrial policies, not tied with investments in AI and robotics. But Musk vision has these components and that is why my question is novelty and merits to stay open.
    – TomR
    Commented May 27 at 16:16
  • @TomR the system you want is called capitalism and it's already here Commented May 27 at 19:44
  • @QuittingDueToAntisemitism - Well, insofar as Musk's vague proposals can be understood, they are definitely not purely capitalist—see, for instance, the first point of this answer. Now, one might suspect that, practically, this might work out to "give me a ton of money for my unachievable social system," so....
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 27 at 19:52
  • @Obie2.0 it's an extremely common capitalist talking point that capitalism is the best way to increase industrial capacity to create wealth to enable the future communist utopia Commented May 29 at 8:07
  • @QuittingDueToAntisemitism - I am not sure what to say here. If someone's goal is a communist utopia, they are clearly not proposing a purely capitalist philosophy. In fact, Karl Marx was even one of the first to make a similar argument (see point 1 here). I think Ted's understanding is more correct here: Musk is clearly proposing something halfway communist, but at the same time unpalatable for most communists. Now, do I believe he is genuine about it? Not really.... Also, what happened to quitting? ;)
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented May 29 at 15:59

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