The roboconomy is a rising flashword for the coming changes to the way the economy works expected to be brought about by the increasing capability of robots and artificial intelligence. Physically, as of early 2017, we have things like this guy (who seems able to ignore a lot of bullying), and this quick moving, obstacle leaping fellow. Intellectually, we're four years past Watson winning Jeopardy, and onto faster and more organically thinking machines. Mechanization, it must be remembered, has already had an immensely disruptive effect on labor, and the movement of that disruptiveness into broader realms of both physical and mental labor is inevitable.

Already people wonder whether, when machines become better drivers than humans, will people still be permitted to get behind the wheel of a car? Will such conduct be restricted, by skyrocketing insurance requirements, to the wealthiest personal drivers? And so, on the one hand, we have a sense that robots are going to eliminate most everybody's jobs. They are already doing so, most pointedly, with the jobs requiring the lowest degrees of physical or intellectual complexity. Simply put, The very first jobs lost to advancing technology are those typically occupied by the poorest people, those worst hit by the loss of a job.

Into this maelstrom is next thrown the concept of the universal basic income--that every person ought to receive from the government some stipend sufficient to enable them to live a baseline quality-of-life without fear of the effects of poverty, whether working (or even able to labor) or not.

The idea of the roboconomy proposes to leverage the effects of robotic and artificial intelligence labor in the economy. Simply put, every person, and birth would be designated authority over a robot by the government. The robot would not be their personal property (at least, initially), but would essentially be a loan. Each robot would then do work on behalf of its human, and the robot would be paid for this work. Employers would pay the robots much like they pay any other employees, although strictly speaking the payment would be rent paid it to the designated owner of the robot. A portion of this pay would go to the government on a rent-to-own basis, slowly paying off the robot's own value to the government. Simply put, the robot's labor would buy itself from the government, on behalf of their assigned human, with all excess pay going in the human's pocket as their basic income.

The need for an individual to have their assigned robot actually perform remunerative work would hinge on the socioeconomic status of that person. A person in need of money would instruct their robot to go find work, which it would do by accessing a computer system designed to provide a utilitarian distribution of robot labor, finding the nearest available work for which the given robot is suited (presuming that any robot might be better suited for a certain task than any other). The question arises, what would happen if the efficiency of working robots obviates the demand for full employment. Obviously, the most effective result would be for the robots of a poorer person to be given priority over those of a rich person in being given paying work. An already-wealthy person who had no need for labor wages could have their robot remain in their own home all day, doing domestic tasks (for which the robot would, yes, be paid, until its pay was sufficient to pay off the government's costs for it). Indeed, a sufficiently wealthy person would likely wish to hire outside robots from people needing to send their robots out to work, as needed for the maintenance of a sufficiently sizable household.

And, though crime would not vanish, both motivations and opportunities for it would decrease substantially, as impoverishment would be eliminated, while the robots would by their programming be rendered incapable of abetting criminal ends. A human who sought to misuse or abuse their robot would simply have it removed from their custody, even though it might be made to continue working for their minimum income, simply so doing outside of human control.

There are, naturally, many unanswered questions and potential downsides to the robocomonic model, but it is most certainly one possible direction in which we might find ourselves, and perhaps a better one than the simple displacement of man for machine, with no profit in the transaction for the displaced human.

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