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Robot taxes and the ‘useless class’

Feb 10,2017
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Along with the discussion of the government paying “basic income” to all citizens, some advocate a robot tax. KAIST Moon Soul Graduate School of Future Strategy Dean Lee Kwang-hyung and Tim Dunlop, author of “Why the Future is Workless,” are notable champions of the robot tax. Their premise is the end of working.

As robots will replace human jobs, there should be an imposed tax to secure the source of revenue for basic income.

Regardless of one’s position on basic income and the robot tax, we all agree that many of the jobs today will become unnecessary in the near future. Oxford University Professor Carl Benedikt Frey’s 2013 study shows that Artificial Intelligence (AI) will replace 5 million human jobs by 2020, and 47 percent of the jobs today can be automated. Not just simple labor but also many white-collar jobs, such as in medicine, can be automated.

Many jobs will disappear soon, but not many new jobs are coming up. It’s clear that there will be no future for us or our children, unless the education created to fit the conventional industrial model changes. Yuval Harari, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and author of “Sapiens,” said when many jobs become automated, the replaced workers will be the “useless class.”

Former People’s Party chairman Ahn Cheol-soo proposed an education reform plan to enable creative education for the fourth industrial revolution on Feb. 6. While he mentioned the fourth industrial revolution, it actually proposes that the state pay for public education before school age and that the ministry of education should be abolished. Instead of changing education fundamentally, he supports the outdated reform of addressing who pays for what and who is in charge.

But in fact, the answer is already out there. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote, “Empathy, which is so difficult to replicate in machines, will be valuable in the human-A.I. world.”
Lee Bong-jin, an authority in the full automation of factories and founding president of the Korean Society for Precision Engineering, said the innovation of the future will come from understanding and motivating the profound human mind.

Only creative humans who constantly ask questions, understand others and initiate cooperation can break out of the useless class. But the focus of education is still on finding an answer rather than building the ability to think and winning rather than working together. When it is not enough to teach kids how to get out of the useless class, we may be guiding them towards it.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 8, Page 31


*The author is the lifestyle news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

AHN HYE-RI