Universal Income in Coming

Planet earth has a global economy worth approximately US $77 Trillion. With around 7.4 billion people at last count, this means that the Per Capita Income of our world is north of $10,000. This would allow every person to live comfortably in many parts of the world and in luxury in the less developed. The world is also growing at 3.4% per annum and global population is growing at 1.1% per annum. This means that at current rates of growth of the global economy and population, every person on earth will have a better future all things normalized. Of course, this does not take into account geographic, social and economic disparity, and the lack of opportunity for the bottom 3.25 billion who live on less than $2 a day.

What is shocking is, normalized for time (at Dollar rates in 1990), the global per capita income has risen from just $679 in 1900 to $6539 in 2000 in just 100 years[1]. This is almost a ten-fold increase in global prosperity in a blink of an eye. This was on the back of a threefold increase in per capital income between 1800 and 1900 but on a much lower base. This is remarkable progress in just 200 years. It would be no surprise that invention, innovation, technology, global economies, the steam engine, telegraph, medicine, computers and technology to name a few, have played a role in this rapid rise. Data also shows that the pace of this increase has been increasing every decade at 25 – 40% in the past 100 years. To compare, the per capita rose 22% in the 100 years circa 1700 to 1800. While disparities remain and the number of millionaires and billionaires have increased, so has the overall well-being of humanity. Even at current rates of growth of ~ 25% per decade, the global per capita income will be $60,000 circa 2100 higher than the per capita income of most developed countries today. It is easy to argue that we should do more in the next 100 years compared to what we have been doing in  the past.

However, our world as we know it is set to change extra-ordinarily in the near future. I posit some key changes that are going to happen. Automation and Artificial Intelligence will replace human labor in vast swathes of circumstances. All manned vehicles including trains, ships, and aircrafts will be taken over by automated systems. The textile industry, heavily labor dependent will be run by a few robots that will manufacture yarn-to-sweatshirt by the millions. Similarly, the construction industry, dependent on construction workers will shift to printed homes, designer or otherwise and single machines will turn out homes by the dozens per hour. Healthcare, another labor intensive industry with heavy premiums paid for the wisdom of the Doctor will be replaced by personalized data driven recommendation engines that will work at the genetic and cellular level to anticipate and address your ailments. This does not even take into account artificial blood and organs that could be bought off the shelf. Power will be abundantly drawn from renewal and natural sources like the sun. Optimized nutrition will be available for free or for a fraction of the cost that it currently requires as data, machines and agricultural engineering will blend to make farms rural and urban churn out everything you need. Education will be provided through wet transplants of knowledge directly into your brain on the fly. Similar change will occur in almost every aspect of humanity from teaching to yoga and from art to mathematics.

What is the human population, soon to be unemployed, nay unemployable to do? How would you spend your time and how would you ensure a good life for you, your family and those you love? The surprising answer may well lie in the direction that our world is taking. The changes in how we run our global economy will have astonishing impacts on the cost structure of most industries. If a car can run autonomously from Place A to B, without any traffic or interval, powered by free energy, the price point for this ride will show similar trends as did the price of air travel since it was invented. In real terms it will be free. Every aspect of our everyday lives  will show similar trends. This will have dramatic impacts on global GDP. Imagine if instead of 25% per decade, global per capita income rose by 50% in the next 100 years. This would take the prediction of per capita from $60,000 in 2100 to $377,071 an increase of 6 times.

All this will happen at a time when the global population will turn increasingly urban. This will lead to a reduction of global increase in population and can even turn negative as many developed countries have shown. This means that global per capita income could rise even further. At the same time, the world will build a universal digital identity, the equivalent of what will pass for a mobile phone or a digital dial up capability and a bank account for every one of our fellow humans. This will create the capacity to share wealth in an unprecedented and efficient manner.

People will not be required to perform most of the tasks currently occupying them. Therefore, the wealth generated by the productivity of machines can be transferred directly to each member of our planet. A Universal Salary as it were. This can happen at birth and depending on criteria that might need to be developed allow every person to live an extra-ordinarily comfortable life with health, education, shelter, transportation and nutrition taken care of. There would be no need to work for your basic living. Of course, this still leaves the question unanswered of what humanity would do? My own guess is there are billions upon billions of stars that need to be explored and it would be imprudent to suggest that we should when 50% of humanity does not eat a proper meal. Once we achieve this goal, which should not take us more than the next two to three decades, your sons and daughters might just move from being global travelers to inter-stellar ones. Of course, robots will compete with you here as well.

[1] J. Bradford De Long, Estimate of World GDP, One Million BC – Present, 1998. Department of Economics, U C Berkeley


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