Elon Musk predicts universal basic income will take off once AI replaces workers. Read his 8 best quotes about UBI.

One of the biggest champions of universal basic income (UBI) is Elon Musk, who expects it to become necessary when robots evict humans from their jobs.

UBI typically refers to making recurring cash payments to all adults in a population, regardless of their wealth or employment status, and with no restrictions on how they spend the money.

Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX and owner of X, envisions a world of self-driving vehicles and other artificially intelligent machines replacing humans in work settings and performing virtually all physical and mental labor.

He’s suggested that will give people more freedom in how they spend their time and money — and predicted the AI-powered economy will be so productive that everyone will receive not just a basic income but a high one.

Here are Musk’s eight best quotes about UBI, lightly edited for length and clarity:

  1. “There’s a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation. I’m not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen. People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things. Certainly more leisure time.” (CNBC, November 4, 2016).
  2. “I think we’ll end up doing universal basic income. It’s going to be necessary. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better. I want to be clear: These are not things I wish will happen — these are things I think probably will happen.” (World Government Summit in Dubai, February 13, 2017)
  3. “Universal income will be necessary over time if AI takes over most human jobs. Also think there should be a universal basic income that doesn’t change even if you get a job. Productivity should be rewarded.” (X posts, June 15 and June 20, 2018)
  4. “I’m in *favor* of universal basic income. Goal of government should be to maximize the happiness of the people. Giving each person money allows them to decide what meets their needs, rather than the blunt tool of legislation, which creates self-serving special interests. If we do a stimulus at all, it should just be direct payments to consumers.” (X post, July 24, 2020)
  5. “The $1400 is mostly good imo (UBI lite), as the people get to choose how the money is spent, but the rest is mostly net bad for the people as a whole.” (Commenting on pandemic stimulus in a X post, March 6, 2021)
  6. “What is the economy at its foundation? It is labor. So what happens when there is no shortage of labor? This is why I think long-term, there will need to be universal basic income.” (AI Day, August 2021)
  7. “There will be universal high income, not basic, in a positive AI future. No scarcity, except that which we define to be scarce. In that scenario, everyone can have whatever goods & services they want. It is less clear how we will find meaning in a world where work is optional. (X post, December 25, 2023)
  8. “In a benign scenario, probably none of us will have a job. There would be universal high income. There would be no shortage of goods and services. The question will really be one of meaning: if a computer can do, and the robots can do, everything better than you, does your life have meaning? I do think there’s perhaps still a role for humans in that we may give AI meaning.” (VivaTech, May 23, 2024).

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