Will AI Generate Wealth for Everyone?

April 21, 2021 - 7 minutes read

artificial intelligence app developmentEvery year, we invest a lot of time, effort, and money to make emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G into a reality. Although many of the benefits that these technologies bring us are obvious (more automation with AI, deeper connectivity with the IoT, and faster internet with 5G), some technologies bring us more tangible results than others.

For example, according to Sam Altman, the co-founder and president of OpenAI, a San Francisco-based AI non-profit, AI will eventually create so much wealth that every adult in the U.S. will take part in a form of profit sharing. To be specific, Altman says that $13,500 could be paid to every adult in possibly 10 years from now. It won’t be as easy as it sounds, though: the government will need to take action and support the distribution of wealth that AI creates.

AI’s Ever-Increasing Pace

Altman believes that an AI revolution is coming sooner, rather than later. He says, “My work at OpenAI reminds me every day about the magnitude of the socio-economic change that is coming sooner than most people believe. Software that can think and learn will do more and more of the work that people now do.” Altman says that the AI revolution is of the scale and magnitude of past major periods of growth, like the industrial, agricultural, and computational revolutions.

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According to Altman, the progress we make with technology in the next 100 years “will be far larger than all we’ve made since we first controlled fire and invented the wheel.” But it won’t be possible, especially the sharing of wealth generated by AI, unless the government helps. First, public policy needs to adapt to modern times and modern technologies. Second, the government must collect and redistribute the wealth that is generated. If done correctly, AI could make the future “less divisive” and more fruitful for everyone.

Some major cost savings will come from AI applications‘ ability to read legal documents or give medical advice. Further down the road, AI will take over assembly-line work and advance enough to become companions to humans. And in the decades afterward, AI will have taken over almost everything, even “making new scientific discoveries that will expand our concept of ‘everything.'”

As it advances, the price of labor will drop to zero and AI will create extreme wealth.

A Whole New World

Altman sees a bright and optimized future where, “for decades, everything – housing, education, food, clothing, etc. – [will become] half as expensive every two years.” But this vision requires a lot of fundamental changes to how taxing works and how taxes are used in the U.S. For example, the wealth from AI will come from the taxation of companies and land, not labor. In other words, governments should tax capital and distribute those taxes to citizens.

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According to Altman, an “American Equity Fund” would tax companies above a certain size 2.5% of their market value in company shares. Additionally, a 2.5% tax of all land value will be levied in dollars. Private companies that generate revenues over $1 billion would also be subject to taxation and dollar payment.

Adults over the age of 18 would receive payment in dollars and company shares. How they spend it or hold onto it is up to them. This method provides each adult some ownership of the country, and it gives them an incentive to keep their country’s economy going, which would theoretically improve society and life for everyone.

With this setup, each of the 250 million American adults would receive $13,500 annually. This is an estimate using the current figures of a $50 trillion valuation of all large U.S. company market caps and a $30 trillion valuation of private land in the U.S. In the next ten years, Altman says, both of these figures will approximately double.

Altman added that the $13,500 estimation could be much higher if AI grows even faster, but that $13,500 as it still has more purchasing power in the future than it does now because the cost of goods and services will be highly reduced in the future. After a certain point in time, a consumer’s purchasing power will increase dramatically every year, says Altman.

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Supporting Parties

Altman isn’t the only person with this thought about the future. Elon Musk agrees that automation created by AI will create the need for a universal basic income in the future, and he said so in 2016. Musk was a co-founder of OpenAI but left its board in 2018 when he felt that Tesla was becoming an AI company, causing a conflict of interest.

Altman says that his proposed system is both “pro-business and pro-people”, and involving both with each other will result in a harmonious relationship. But the major obstacle is the actual probability of these paramount changes happening within the next decade. The U.S.’s political climate does not seem to be going in the right direction to solve the looming and growing socioeconomic chasm.

Giving Back to Humanity

As AI and machine learning applications grow rapidly in complexity and usefulness, we need to engineer a way to pay it back to those from who we are taking jobs, training, and education. And although Altman’s plan sounds great, it seems way too idealistic.

For Altman’s plan to be successful, we need a wild shift in political leaders, policies, and social programs. We need to start working towards the future today, not in ten years. As Altman says, “The future can be almost unimaginably great,” but it’s up to us to elect the most progressive leaders and hold our officials accountable over the next decade or we’ll never see the fruits of our or AI’s labor.

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