Redirecting AI Profits: The Road to a Universal Basic Income?

JJohn July 28, 2023 4:08 PM

Profitable AI companies could potentially fund a universal basic income (UBI) with their surplus profits. This thought-provoking concept is based on the observed boom in productivity with increased AI use, and the innovative corporate governance structures emerging among AI companies.

Balancing profits with ethical considerations

The gold rush of AI has led to a surge of innovative corporate governance models. Unlike traditional tech founders who sought to consolidate control and financial upside, AI companies are shifting the paradigm. These founders are experimenting with governance structures designed to balance the lure of financial gain with nonmonetary considerations. This approach is seen in companies like DeepMind and OpenAI, where restrictions or ethical guidelines have been put in place to ensure a broader focus beyond just profits.

There are multiple ways the wealth generated by AI companies could be funneled back to the public. The most obvious method is through taxes, with AI company profits being taxed and redistributed via social programs. Charitable acts, like the ones encouraged by Anthropic, represent another avenue. Alternatively, AI companies could elect to donate a significant share of their profits directly. This idea was proposed in a 2020 paper called 'The Windfall Clause', suggesting a voluntary yet binding commitment by AI firms to donate a set percentage of their excess profits to charity.

Universal Basic Income as a solution

If successfully implemented, AI could generate profits on a scale that would significantly reshape the world’s economy. To prevent this wealth from concentrating in the hands of a few and exacerbating inequality, the authors of 'The Windfall Clause' proposed a percentage-based donation of excess profits. However, the question of how best to distribute this windfall remains open. One promising approach is to establish a global Universal Basic Income (UBI), with the funds distributed to as many individuals as possible every month. This method could circumvent the risks of misuse by local governments and sidestep debates about value prioritization at the corporate level.

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