The advances in AI and robotics will inevitably lead to greater — perhaps soaring — inequality and quite possibly outright unemployment, at least for certain groups of workers. This has the potential to rend the fabric of society and lead to both social and political disruptions — including the rise of demagogues.

In my 2015 book, Rise of the Robots, I argue that someday we will need something like a universal basic income (UBI) to ensure that income is adequately distributed throughout the population.

Here are two major reason for a universal basic income:

  1. To maintain social stability and make sure people can maintain a decent standard of living.
  2. To ensure that consumers have money to spend — because the market economy requires that there be adequate demand for products and services. Without this we risk economic stagnation or even a downward spiral, as well as a financial crisis if people cannot pay their debts.

I make my case for a basic income in my TED Talk at the 2017 TED Conference.

In my new book Architects of Intelligence, I interview leaders in the AI industry about the impact of AI on jobs. Everyone agrees there will be disruption, and many think a basic income is a good idea. Others disagree. Again, there are a great many interesting perspectives.

Originally published on Quora.


  • Martin Ford

    Futurist and NYT Bestselling Author Focused on AI, Robotics and the Future Economy

    Martin is a prominent futurist, NYT bestselling author and leading expert on artificial intelligence and robotics and their potential impact on the job market, economy, and society. His new book, Architects of Intelligence: The truth about AI from the people building it, was named Best Technology Book of 2018 by Financial Times. His book, Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future won the 2015 Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award and has been translated into over 20 languages. Martin Ford speaks frequently to industry, academic and government audiences on the subject of technology and its implications for the future and is the founder of a Silicon Valley-based software development firm. His TED Talk on the impact of AI and robotics on the economy and society, given on the main stage at the 2017 TED Conference, has been viewed more than 2 million times. Martin has over 25 years of experience in the fields of computer design and software development and holds a degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and a graduate degree in business from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.