As artificial intelligence (AI) technology makes steady progress from day to day, worries that robots will eventually displace human workers in factory floors and offices are also on the rise.
To prepare for what looks like the inevitable widespread use of robots in the workplace, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is proposing that governments should tax the intelligent machines to raise money to support those that it will displace.
“Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000-worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things,” Gates said in an interview with Quartz. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”
The world's richest man, who earned his fortune by making the operating system and software that runs PCs, said it is about time to address the large-scale job losses that may be caused by the widespread use of robots.
Money from robot taxes should be used to support displaced workers and retrain them to work in sectors where human interaction is needed such as elderly care and education. Gates says these jobs are safe from robots, which lack the necessary characteristics such as empathy and understanding.
“People should be figuring it out. It is really bad if people overall have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm. That means they won’t shape it for the positive things it can do,” Gates said.
In the next 20 years, Gates cited driving and warehouse work as some of the jobs that would be replaced by AI.
In the Philippines, one of the industries that could face threat from AI is the call center and BPO industry which employed about 1.3 million Filipinos and generated about $25 billion in foreign exchange in 2016.
Information technology experts surveyed by Pew Research Center said they expect robots and digital agents will replace a large number of BPO workers by 2025. These agents cost only a third of the pay of employees in offshore locations such as India and the Philippines.
Pauline Macaraeg is Entrepreneur PH's data journalist. Follow her on Twitter @paulinemacaraeg