What would happen if you tripled the US population? Matthew Yglesias and moderator Charles Duhigg explore the idea on Big Think Live.
Is immigration key to bolstering the American economy? Could having one billion Americans secure the US's position as the global superpower?
Is immigration key to bolstering the American economy? Could having one billion Americans secure the US's position as the global superpower? What if massive population growth could nourish rural economies and strengthen our country from the inside out? Perhaps these questions are provocative fodder for more debate and contention but, for Matthew Yglesias, asking them and arguing about them is part of the American way. Join him in a conversation moderated by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg as they explore the case for one billion Americans.
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The pandemic has given us an early glimpse at how truly disruptive the fourth industrial revolution may be, and the measures we'll need to support human dignity.
- The coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for two powerful transformative forces: automation and universal basic income.
- These two intertwined forces will undoubtedly gain steam, writes Frederick Kuo, and the pandemic will hasten the acceptance of them from a scale of decades to years or mere months.
- This crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future could look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
The coronavirus pandemic has sent the global economy into a tailspin posing a twisted choice to humankind between economic survival or our very health. Markets are crashing, numbers of infected people and deaths soaring by the day and a massive part of the global economy forced into a standstill as people shelter in place. Looking out the window, the world still looks the same. The sun is still shining, the leaves still rustle in the wind and birds still chirp merrily as if nothing was amiss. However there is no mistaking a collective sense of mourning that the world is feeling as normal daily routines and freedoms we took for granted have come to a sudden halt. Amidst the constant barrage of gloomy news however, this crisis shall inevitably pass. But the world post-COVID-19 will not be the same; the crisis has acted as a catalyst for powerful transformative forces such as automation and the need for universal basic income, two intertwined forces that will undoubtedly gain steam.
COVID-19 will expedite automation
As the mobility of human beings grinds to a halt due to public health directives and fears of infection, our need for food, resources and social connection has forced us to increasingly rely on technology to fill urgent gaps. In the United States, Amazon is seizing this opportunity to further entrench its domination, while in China, robots are being deployed to serve those in quarantine. In a world where fear of contact with other humans has become pervasive, businesses that can adapt quickly and significantly automate their supply lines and cut points of human contact stand to thrive in this new market.
Whereas before this crisis, the need for automation was mainly driven by the desire for increased profits and improved efficiency, the momentous shift in public consciousness today regarding simple human contact may make automation almost a necessity for many businesses to survive. When humans trust a robot to handle or deliver their food or goods more than they trust another human, or when crowded workplaces present public health hazards, jobs for humans will be unceremoniously eliminated. Given existing technologies, experts have estimated 36 million jobs may be vulnerable, ranging from trucking and delivery to food service and repetitive white collar jobs, the labor market may face a significant restructure driven by new technology and a radically altered market for those technologies. In a recent survey conducted by auditing firm Ernst & Young, more than half of company bosses throughout 45 countries had begun implementing existing plans to fast track automation.
This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months.
The crisis of unemployment has become real for tens of millions locked down around the world. Although this phase is likely to be temporary with normality expected to return by the third quarter, the process of entrenching automation in our daily lives will be radically pushed forward. This crisis has compacted the timeline of a gradual acceptance of an automated future from years into months. In Seattle, Amazon has pioneered Amazon Go, a small grocery that relies on cameras and sensors to charge customers for what they buy instead of a checkout line. With Amazon already in control of a major grocery chain, Whole Foods, one could imagine that this little, fully automated store could serve as a template for a nationwide expansion of this technology, thus reducing the once-vital role of the cashier nearly overnight. Similar rollouts of automation models will likely follow in the coming years, affecting warehouse employees, delivery people, food service personnel and more.
Mainstream acceptance of UBI
In early 2019, Andrew Yang began gaining news coverage regarding the central theme of his presidential campaign: $1,000 a month in universal basic income (UBI) dispersed to every American. His primary argument for the necessity of this safety net rested on the belief that the coming age of automation was about to inundate vast scores of our current jobs with a shrinking percentage of elite tech corporations gobbling up more and more of the profit. When Yang first introduced his vision, it seemed to belong to a remote dystopian future with little relevance to the booming economy and low unemployment figures that was the reality until only weeks ago. On the right, he was lambasted as a communist seeking to turn American citizens into dependents to the state. On the left, his ideas were dismissed as other Democratic hopefuls touted the Green New Deal and job programs.
Fast forward to today and Andrew Yang's UBI theory has moved straight into the forefront. Trump, perhaps cognizant that the "Yang Gang" pulled a great deal of support from his own supporters, quickly recognized the popularity of his ideas and the need to provide supplemental income to Americans as shelter-in-place directives began to take hold throughout the country. The massive $2 trillion coronavirus emergency stimulus will provide every American earning $75,000 or less, regardless of current employment, a check of $1,200 per person and $500 per child for the duration of the crisis. There has been little debate over the necessity of this measure because it has proven to be widely popular to the public, regardless of political standing. It lifts some of the immediate and pressing need to work and helps take some of the edge off from isolating at home, thus contributing to a quicker resolution of this health crisis by sending fewer people out into the streets.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure.
Although the stimulus package is a stopgap measure to deal with this crisis, its absolute necessity during this crisis has validated Yang's prophetic vision of a dystopian future where work no longer becomes possible for huge swathes of the American people. The reality is that the after effects of this crisis will be felt for at least months after the pandemic ends. There is little security for either the business owners or employees of food service businesses, bars, hair and nail salons and essentially any business that requires large crowds of people to gather and interact. To the initial detractors of UBI who argued that the program would breed laziness and a welfare state, the reality is that for most workers thrown into the sea of uncertainty, receiving a stimulus check will provide a small lifeline but will ultimately be of little solace to individuals who are accustomed to earning far more and who derive a sense of pride and satisfaction from their jobs. For most of those impacted by loss of employment, supplemental income in the form of a UBI helps take the edge off but it is ultimately no replacement for having a job or business.
Although the pandemic and the stimulus check is temporary, this crisis has ushered in a glimpse of what a dystopian future would look like as a rapidly advancing fourth industrial revolution inevitably causes severe disruption in our economy and labor structure. Automation and artificial intelligence are coming and will significantly alter the way we work, shop, eat and socialize. As society experiences the disruptive force of technology and draws on our collective experiences fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, UBI may become a permanent fixture of our political economy as well.
Continuing the countdown, Big Think's seventh most popular video of 2019 explains why universal basic income will hurt the 99%, and make the 1% even richer.
- Big Think's #7 most popular video of 2019 features Douglas Rushkoff, who says universal basic income is a band-aid solution that will not solve wealth inequality.
- Funneling money to the 99% perpetuates their roles as consumers, pumping money straight back up to the 1% at the top of the pyramid.
- Rushkoff suggests universal basic assets instead, so that the people at the bottom of the pyramid can own some means of production and participate in the profits of mega-rich companies.
Robots may be able to beat us at chess, but they still have trouble when it comes to soft skills — making sense of human behavior.
- In a rapidly changing work world it's critical to continue evolving your skills — this is especially true as automation's presence in the workforce increases.
- Robots are good at working off of knowledge that we already know, however, they aren't that great when it comes to developing original ideas.
- Though robots are good at jobs founded on patterns and data points, they currently don't excel when it comes to soft skills — that is, they have difficulty dealing with human behavior. On our end, soft skills help us make sense of chaotic environments where the dynamic human element is constantly in play.
The Von Braun Space Station, based on the concepts of a controversial scientist, is moving ahead with construction plans.
- The Gateway Foundation is building a space hotel, based on the concepts of a Nazi and American rocket scientist Wernher von Braun.
- The space station is expected to be operational by 2025.
- The company plans to assemble it in orbit, using robots and drones.
If Earthly destinations are not enough to quench your wanderlust, a trip to a space hotel might get on your radar within the next few years. The designer of the Von Braun Space Station revealed numerous plans that detail the construction of a veritable resort in space.
Built by the Gateway Foundation, the world's first space hotel will have gravity, bars, inviting interiors and full-fledged kitchens. They plan to have the station visited by about a 100 tourists per week by 2025.
The designer of the project, Tim Alatorre, wants to make traveling to space commonplace.
"Eventually, going to space will just be another option people will pick for their vacation, just like going on a cruise, or going to Disney World," Alatorre revealed in an interview with Dezeen.
The gravity-generating wheel of the space station.
Credit: Von Braun Space Station
He thinks that while initially space travel will be the domain of the uber-wealthy, soon enough it will be available to regular folks.
The Space Station will utilize existing tech used at the International Space Station, but will differ in one crucial aspect – the hotel will have artificial gravity, making long-term stay much more manageable. The designer thinks gravity, about a sixth of Earth's, will add a "sense of direction and orientation that isn't present in the ISS." You'd also be able to go to a toilet, shower or eat food the way you are used to.
Credit: Von Braun Space Station
The ideas for the station were taken from none other than Wernher von Braun – hence its name. If you recall, Wernher von Braun was a top Nazi rocket scientist who developed the infamous V2 rocket. After the war, he was taken in by NASA and became a famous American scientist. The hotel will be a part of his complex legacy.
The station will be made of a giant wheel, 190 meters in diameter, which will be rotating to generate a gravitational force (similar in pull to the moon's). 24 individual modules with sleeping and support facilities will be spread around the wheel on three decks, providing accommodations to about 400 people in total.
Alatorre compares the hotel to a cruise ship, pointing out it will have "many of the things you see on cruise ships: restaurants, bars, musical concerts, movie screenings, and educational seminars." Just in space.
Credit: Von Braun Space Station
"The dream of the Gateway Foundation is to create starship culture, where there is a permanent community of space-faring people living and working in Earth's orbit and beyond," shared Alatorre.
Credit: Von Braun Space Station
Some of the modules could be sold like condos. Others will be available for scientific research to governments and the like.
The designer explained that the interiors of the hotel will be created using modern natural materials that would substitute for stone and wood and be lightweight and easy to clean. The warm-colored lighting, paints and textures will add to a homey feel.
If you're wondering what you can do for fun in such an environment, the designers are planing to provide such activities as low-gravity basketball, trampolining and rock climbing. You can also play something akin to Quidditch from Harry Potter and new games that would have to be figured out to take advantage of the fresh possibilities.
How will the station be built? By using automated systems like drones and robots, while in orbit. It will also make use of GSAL, special space construction machinery developed by Orbital Construction.
Looking ahead, the Gateway Foundation sees the Von Braun Space Station as their proof of concept. They intend to build bigger space stations as demand for such vacations grows. Their next class of station is called The Gateway and can accommodate more than 1,400 people.