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News > World

EU Considers Basic Universal Income to Combat Rise of Robots

  • Employees in India were more positive than their counterparts from across Asia when it comes to automation.

    Employees in India were more positive than their counterparts from across Asia when it comes to automation. | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 January 2017

A report that would give robots the rights of "electronic persons" and make their manufacturers contribute more to social security is close passing European Parliament.

The European Parliament approved a report that would encourage states to ensure everyone receives a universal basic income to prepare for the threat that automation poses on the job market.

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The report references Frankenstein, Asimov’s Law and “the 'soft impacts' on human dignity” by the technological revolution to insist that the Parliament take action on research and policy to reign in the potentially disastrous effects of Artificial Intelligence and robotics on human life.

Besides enacting a universal income for all to cover for the rising rate of job losses to come, rapporteur Mady Delvaux of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats suggests that Parliament look at the “viability of the social security systems of the Member States” and consider refining taxing and contributions of corporations to social security based on their use of robotics. She also mentions creating an insurance and compensation fund for each robot in the case of damage, investing in women’s participation in the digital sciences and checking the ethical use of equipment like drones in policing.

While the report would not take immediate action on the issues, it recommends establishing a code of ethical conduct, developing research on robotics and Artificial Intelligence and expanding the legal code to consider robots as “electronic persons with specific rights and obligations.”

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Delvaux may have been inspired by growing demands to “bring jobs back,” saying that, “If we do not create the legal framework for the development of robotics, our market will be invaded by robots from outside.” She also said she supports automation, which increases efficiency and safety and that, “If industry uses more automation robotics, they will be more performing and more competitive and it can lead to some companies relocating production back to Europe.”

The Legal Affairs Committee of Parliament on Thursday overwhelmingly approved the report, which will move to the full house next month to be approved by absolute majority before it goes forward with the legislative process.

If it does so, European Parliament could be the first to pass such a legal framework on robots.

Similar initiatives on universal basic income have been put forth in Scotland, Canada and Finland.

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