In an interview with Quartz editor-in-chief Kevin Delaney, Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist explained that robot labor should get taxed just like human labor — primarily as a way to maintain funding for society’s many social services. According to Gates, “You can’t just give up that income tax”. Gates also went further to say that just because a worker isn’t technically “alive” doesn’t mean it can make money for nothing.
Over time, technologists and economists have been discussing the looming threat of robotic automation for several years now. Recent reports from 2013 indicates that robots could displace up to 50% of jobs between 2023 and 2033 and also the report concluded that today’s technology could replace 45% of jobs right now. In 2016 it was found drones could replace $126 billion worth of labor in infrastructure and agriculture. These lost jobs will likely come, at least initially, in telemarketing, tax preparation, and many retail service jobs.
Bill Gates wants the system to be similar to how the government takes a portion of people’s wages to support infrastructure, healthcare, law enforcement and other social programs. The tech billionaire doesn’t believe the manufacturers of those robots should be able to reap the profits generated by the automated labor without paying some sort of tax.
Bill Gates visualizes robot tax as contributing to a portion of those programs whose work-forces are in short supply and points to the examples of elder care, teaching, and helping kids with special needs. Given the appropriate training and fulfillment, people whose jobs have been taken by robots could fill those kinds of roles and have their salaries paid for by the tax.
Robots are taking human jobs. But Bill Gates believes that governments should tax companies’ use of them, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. You can watch Gates’ remarks in the video above.
William Henry “Bill” Gates III (born October 28, 1955) is an American business magnate, entrepreneur, philanthropist, investor, and computer programmer. In 1975, Gates and Paul Allen co-founded Microsoft, which became the world’s largest PC software company. Gates is one of the best-known entrepreneurs of the personal computer revolution. Later in his career Gates pursued a number of philanthropic endeavors, donating large amounts of money to various charitable organizations and scientific research programs through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established in 2000. Gates is currently the wealthiest person in the world with a net worth of US$77.3 billion.