Why do robot alarmists and universal basic income advocates support expanding immigration?

Happy July 4th! We’re independent as a nation so in theory we get to decide what kind of nation we want to have. Today I want to understand an apparent logical contradiction.

A bunch of my Facebook friends fall into a category that I call “robot alarmists.” They believe that computers and robots are getting so sophisticated that at least half of the current American workforce will be unable to find any job at all. Thus they support a universal basic income (“UBI”). Here are some example posts:

Some variant of [universal basic income] is inevitable if civilization is to survive the invention of robots. However, there is a much deeper flaw here: the notion that consumerism itself can continue forever. It can’t, at least not with 10 billion humans trying to live like Americans.

Bring on the robotax 🙂 Since robots stand to boost profit at the expense of labor (what else is new?!), it stands to reason that buying a robot should be heavily taxed, with the proceeds going to the unemployed.

Labor shortages have been predicted since I was in college and here we are, short on jobs and money, but long on billionaires and robots. Even if they’re right, all it means is more demand pressure on creating robots to fill those jobs.

This is how they take over our world: it’s just too damn convenient, efficient and profitable to use them. And of course we will keep improving them because that makes them faster, better, cheaper yet! Until one day they break the tether and run… [over an article on a gas leak robot]

The only option left once you give all the jobs to robots… [over an article on UBI]

Because we just HAVE to go faster! And replace humans with robots. Right? Or is there some other logical reason why we NEED faster computers? I’m not coming up with any [over an article on microprocessor trying to stay on the Moore’s Law curve]

Central to the case for a UBI is the way it would help prepare us for a world in which the new technological revolution, driven by artificial intelligence and robotics, will, over time, transform the nature of work and the type and number of jobs. [UK Labour politician]

I would be more worried about about a collapse in the job market if I could find someone reliable to weed our yard for less than 3X the federal minimum wage or someone skilled in carpentry at less than 6X. But let’s assume that these folks are sincere. They believe that in the reasonably near-term, our society’s wealth will come from the robots that some citizens and corporations own plus from the labor of an elite group of workers who do things that robots cannot do.

Why do the same people then support current U.S. immigration policy and advocate for an increase in the number of immigrants on the same terms? The U.S. immigration system is not targeted at people with elite skills, high education levels, and high income in whatever country they’re living in now. Thus we are going to be bringing in people who cannot read and may not be able to speak or understand English. If the average American’s income will just be whatever robots produce divided by the total population as a universal basic income (minus any costs to administer the government handouts, of course), what would be the value to current U.S. citizens of increasing the denominator?

Suppose that the goal is humanitarian relief. Citizens of Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries do not have a good life in their home countries. We will bring them to the U.S., give them a universal basic income, and they can be happy going to Disneyland every day. If that is the goal, however, wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to give a larger number of designated unfortunates a smaller “universal basic income” (“universal sub-basic income”?) that would enable them to live comfortably in a lower-cost-of-living part of the world?

In short, in the old days the argument used by advocates of immigration is that they would grow our economy (and tax base) by working. Today, however, the people who argue that we will have a vast surplus of human labor continue to advocate for immigration and a larger population of the humans most of whom they believe will be economic parasites of either robots or exceptionally skilled humans. How does that make sense?

12 Comments

  1. Toucan Sam

    July 4, 2016 @ 2:49 pm

    1

    Build the wall!

  2. jack crossfire

    July 4, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

    2

    Thought Hill’s plan was to shoot all overachievers, since overachievers were as bad for employment as robots. Cyborgs who augmented their ability with prosthetics would also be executed. Then, she would only let underachievers immigrate. No more Elon Musks. Lenin’s dream of rule by an uneducated working class, except for 1 Hillary, would finally be realized.

  3. anonymous

    July 4, 2016 @ 11:15 pm

    3

    how to get a skilled carpenter for less than 6x minimum wage:

    look for:
    1) ‘retired’ contractors above age 62 but below full retirement age
    -or-
    2) contractors who are recently divorced, or in the process of being divorced

    negotiate a price, then ask if it matters if you pay in cash. Trust me, you will find someone good, for less. My contractor was already drawing social security so a paper lunch bag of cash every week did the trick. I’m sure he self reported the income and took out appropriate taxes and reduced his social security income accordingly. Only problem was he showed up every day at 6:30 AM.

  4. Tom

    July 5, 2016 @ 2:55 am

    4

    I don’t see the point of a “Universal Basic Income” in the first place. Is this supposed to be eternal welfare and other social programs? Well, those are already in place. Have at it.

    Is it supposed to replace existing programs? Since the unfortunates who manage to lose their money immediately still will need help, it probably won’t. Also, shutting down the existing programs would ruin a perfectly good bureaucracy full of good jobs.

    Is it supposed to give a comfortable middle class existence to everyone who doesn’t have one? Uh … sure.

    “How does that make sense?” Well you see … it doesn’t have to!

  5. Lord Palmerston

    July 5, 2016 @ 5:05 am

    5

    It makes sense for signaling one’s virtuous concern for two approved victim groups, the unemployed and intending immigrants. Logic is like sand in these gears so ignore that the groups’ interests are antithetical (see also LGBT and Muslims). The object of the game is to keep as many of these victimhood plates spinning as you can.

  6. bobbybobbob

    July 5, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

    6

    The Basic Income enthusiasts assume the robotic factory owners will choose to locate under the taxing authority of people who like ideas such as Basic Income.

    The factories will probably be in sunny parts of Africa near the coast. Or in Iceland where geothermal power is roughly free. Once you don’t need very many workers cheap power and low taxes become paramount.

  7. superMike

    July 5, 2016 @ 4:57 pm

    7

    Maybe when they say “Universal”, they really mean it.

  8. Vince

    July 5, 2016 @ 7:51 pm

    8

    You’ve now posted a number of questions here asking for explanations of the things that you Facebook friends post on Facebook. It would make more sense to just ask those people why they write the things that they write.

  9. bjk

    July 6, 2016 @ 12:06 am

    9

    The underlying assumption appears to be that some whites and blacks are so incorrigibly lazy as to be unemployable at any wage, but new immigrants, mostly Hispanics, are so hardworking that they’ll take a job at any wage.

  10. ScarletNumber

    July 6, 2016 @ 12:57 am

    10

    @Vince

    Most people don’t like being directly challenged.

  11. bobbybobbob

    July 6, 2016 @ 1:29 am

    11

    Black displacement is a very essential feature of modern immigration enthusiasm. Imported beaners still bow and say yessir. Not like those pesky negroes actually in the congress.

  12. ianf

    July 6, 2016 @ 5:52 am

    12

    Industrial—production line, not the domestic Sci-Fi kind—robots are just the latest stage in the capitalist project to lower the cost of, and ensure uninterrupted production of goods that the gradually more and more impoverished non-working consumer population can not afford to buy (which is where other capitalist institutions, the money lenders, willingly step in). It used to be that the grosshandlers remembered that there always has to be somebody to buy retail, or their own businesses go belly up. No more, it seems.

    Anyone who has ever seen a machine hall full of robots manufacturing… something, could be other robots, has to wonder ?where the workers that previously were here have all gone? Obviously, they are s.o.m.e.w.h.e.r.e, have not died off yet, or we would be reading about these, if only local mass sapiens extinctions, in the papers.

    This is no wishful thinking on my part, but we’re nearing the tipping point where the working classes (even those relatively well reimbursed for their part in upholding the rich bastards’ status quo) will bring out the pitchforks AND their so-beloved handguns. I suspect it may come in the wake of the coming massive push to replace the Teamsters/ truckers, the most numerous, blue-collar homogenous US trade, with long-distance self-driving trucks in the next decade or so.

    Perhaps not a revolution-per-se, which already that’d sound like COMMUNISM!, but a not easily quenched chain of intermittent revolts of the not-haves against the haves (perhaps somewhat analogous to this: a university lecturer who grew up in a weakly-gated community of/for the Polish party-nomenklatura, said once that everybody around, all the “communist elites” there, safely ensconced and unchallenged in daily power, never the less lived under no impression of the legitimacy of it: at a mere whiff of nearby plant workers’ overt dissatisfaction and unrest, which we in the West seldom got to hear of, but apparently such were plentiful, his parents and neighbors barricaded the doors at night for days on end).

    Where Fuckfacebook-verbal immigration friendliness comes in here, I honestly do not know. Lord Palmerston #5 is most certainly right: political correctness at work.

    ObMovieContext: “Roger and Me,” Michael Moore’s confrontational documentary about the industry-induced death of his childhood Arcadia, Flint, Michigan; a harbinger of things to come in once-jewel of the auto industry, now post-apocalyptic landscape habitat Detroit. It’s the Mother of all subsequent urban devolution dystopian documentaries (with a honorable, if little robotopic, mention going to “Yes Men Fix The World” (2009)).

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