Pay Taxes! Bill Gates Says To Robots


The industrial revolution of the late 18th and early 19th century brought the new methods to the manufacturing processes which culminated in the development of an assembly line production which was made famous especially by Henry Ford. In today’s automobile factories, workers are being more and more replaced by robots which indicate another revolution in the industry and there is no doubt that it will also significantly affect the labour market and the whole society.

Of course, the automation is an issue not only in the manufacturing but penetrates almost many sectors of the global economy including services. Many companies in different sectors are exploring the positive effects which the automation can have within their business. You have probably already experienced the automatic checkout in the big supermarkets or you have ridden the auto-driven subway. However, as mentioned above, as more and more job vacancies will be taken by the robotic force, the labour market will feel the changes as many workers (especially those who are less qualified) will have problems to get a job in a competition with robots who don’t need to rest, and do not require the salary.

According to several reports, 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent of positions endangered by the already existing technology if it will spread sufficiently. In other words, 50 percent of all jobs is at risk. And we are talking just about near-term future. With the development of new technologies, these numbers will even increase (it is realistic that robots will be able to conduct even such a demanding tasks like a routine surgery in a near future). It means not only that the problems with an unemployment rate will arise, but it will also cause the significant outage in the state’s income in the form of taxes as income taxes, social security taxes, and similar payments flow back to the system from every “organic employee”. However, there is no such thing as a social security tax for robots. If there will be no reaction, there will be probably the lack of money for the public projects like schools, basic research, state-provided health care, and other similar projects. That’s why Bill Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, billionaire, and philanthropist, proposes the tax for the automated workforce.

According to Mr. Gates, the taxes imposed on robots should be at the similar level to those imposed on a human employee. As the basis for the tax calculation, Mr. Gates proposes the savings achieved by companies by using robots instead of human workers. While it is not completely clear how this difference should be precisely defined, it can the good starting point of the debate.

It should be noted that Gates’ idea about taxes for robots is not completely original and something similar was already proposed by the lawmakers in the European Union. For now, the EU rejected the idea but it can be expected that the debate will only gain momentum in the near future and the pressure for accepting the automated workforce tax will increase in time hand in hand with the increasing the ratio of all jobs going to the automats.

Of course, there is a question of how will the companies react to these ideas. Bill Gates doesn’t expect that the industry will protest strongly. We can probably assume that some mild resistance from the industry will appear as it gets used to the increased profit but it is likely that they will accept the new tax as the necessity.

As it usually is, the automated workforce will bring us new solutions to our problems and it will introduce new ones at the same time. We will have to find solutions to those problems – that is called the development. Some of the consequences which will the automated workforce bring are still hidden to us and will reveal themselves along the process of the increasing the automation at the labour market. The debate is just at its beginning but we should already pay attention to it because the result will probably affect lives of the most of us significantly. It is definitely exciting to live in a time in which we can experience another technological revolution even if we do not precisely know where it will lead us.

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