Whenever I’ve got a tricky economics problem, Navroop Sahdev is the first person I turn to. I’ve been privileged enough to get her advice on two projects in the past, and this was no exception. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgFrdSD9Da8
It was a wide-ranging conversation, where we unearthed one contradiction after another. We talk about the digital economy, and how much it’s going to drive things going forward. But we also talk about Tyler Cowen’s Average is Over, which predicts middle-skill, middle-income jobs will be hardest hit by advances in technology. In this scenario, the remaining jobs will be split into highly paid “haves” reaping the benefits of technology and low-paid “have nots” that fill in the gaps. Relying on future digital growth while also avoiding its polarizing effects isn’t going to be easy.
To be honest, I don’t think the key lies in how we design social programs or how they’re implemented. I think the key is how we relate to each other.
A few years ago I tried to reason out what a sustainable Universal Basic Income would look like, and I concluded that putting together the money or the means to do it is hardly the issue. The real issue is that we have to collectively decide to create a more equitable society. Until that happens the core driving force to keep this running won’t be there. Navroop brought up a great term for this: we need a more empathetic civilization to keep us on track
The silver lining is, events are forcing people to change today. And in the face of certain, widespread financial distress for huge amounts of people, governments are doing the unthinkable and have started just giving people money. Hopefully this is just the first step towards a society with a more equitable, meaningful part for everyone.