Digitization makes Basic Income necessary? Why a supposedly strong argument is a weak one

In the very recent debate about BI, the impact of digitization on workplaces has been hightlighted. Following arguments put forth by McAfee and Brynjolfsson or Frey and Osborne, the amount of human work force will be substituted by technology to such an extent in the near future, that a BI seems to be inevitable. Robert Reich, former minister under US president Clinton, as well as the former Greek minister of finance Yanis Varoufakis recently picked this argument up. What appears to be a strong argument is in fact a weak one. Not only are projections like those mentioned above problematic, we cannot foresee what technological progress will really bring about. The use of automation technology in itself is a social and cultural process and does not occur automatically. It is also important to investigate what impact it might have on the area in which it will be used.

Furthermore, and even more important, is that there is no causal link between digitization and BI. Of course, if technological progress would have the impact some experts claim, the BI would provide a reasonable solution. However, BI is independent from digitization, it provides an answer in itself, no matter what technological progress can bring about. To my mind, to link BI to the impact of digitization reduces its value. Consequently, if the projections will not become reality or the predicted effect on the labour market will not be seen or disappear again, the BI must then be revoked.

Sascha Liebermann