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Elon Musk: AI will remove need for jobs, create ‘universal high income’

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Inc., and Rishi Sunak, UK prime minister, left, during a fireside discussion on artificial intelligence risks in London, UK, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023. Bloomberg—Getty Images

Good morning!

While speaking at the U.K.’s inaugural A.I. Safety Summit last week, serial founder, investor, and CEO Elon Musk predicted that AI would inevitably remove the need for all jobs

“It’s hard to say exactly what that moment is, but there will come a point where no job is needed,” Musk told U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “You can have a job if you want to have a job, or sort of personal satisfaction, but the AI will be able to do everything.”

That may sound alarming to many, and even Musk joked that he wasn’t sure “if that makes people comfortable or uncomfortable.” But Musk’s perspective was apparently more positive, describing his vision as a “protopian” future with AI.

“I think everyone will have access to this magic genie, and you’re able to ask any question. It’ll be certainly bigger for education. It’ll be the best tutor,” he said. “And there will be no shortage of goods and services. It will be an age of abundance.”

He also suggested AI will lead to a  “universal high income,” an apparent superior to universal basic income, which other Silicon Valley figures like Sam Altman and Mark Zuckerberg have advocated for. “We won’t have universal basic income. We’ll have universal high income,” Musk said, without clarifying how the two differ. “In some sense, it’ll be somewhat of a leveler, an equalizer.”

Musk’s preference for “universal high income” may signal a departure from his previous stance on universal basic income. In 2018, he posted on X that universal income “will be necessary over time if AI takes over most human jobs.” While disclosing that Tesla was working on a robot during a company presentation on AI in 2021, he expressed a similar sentiment and acknowledged the robot would likely replace human jobs.

Musk could also be falling in line with his peers who’ve recently criticized universal income. In a 5,200-word “Techno-Optimist Manifesto” released in mid-October, VC investor Marc Andreessen said universal basic income would “turn people into zoo animals to be farmed by the state,” writing that “man was not meant to be farmed; man was meant to be useful, to be productive, to be proud.”

Contrary to Andreessen’s dystopian conjecture, more people are warming up to the idea of a universal basic income. In a Joblist survey of 18,600 jobseekers last year, 19% said a universal income would alleviate their frustrations with work. Universal income experiments have also seen positive results. One ongoing project in Denver found that, of homeless individuals who received $1,000 a month for a year, the share of those sleeping on the streets fell to zero within six months. Participants who reported residing in their own homes or apartments grew four-fold, from 8% to 34%, and overall mental health and full-time employment increased. 

All said, it’s difficult to guess what benefits a “universal high income” could bring, given Musk didn’t provide depth to his proclamation. But as stress about the rising cost of living and long-term financial security worsens, it’s clear that people are desperate for more immediate financial relief and aren’t interested in waiting for the robots to take over before they get it.

Paige McGlauflin

Reporter’s Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes, and insights from the field.

Daylight savings ended on Sunday here in the U.S. As the days grow even shorter, two out of three employees say the time shift will negatively affect their sleep habits, leading to a decline in mental health and productivity, according to a survey of over 9,500 U.S. and U.K. adults from wellness platform Calm. 

“As employers, we should be asking ourselves how we can cultivate a culture that encourages rest and breaks during the day, dismantling the always-on hustle culture,” Scott Domann, Calm’s chief people officer, told Employee Benefit News. “Part of getting a good night’s sleep is building a strong work-life balance where you can properly wind down at the end of the night and relax.” 

Around the Table

A round-up of the most important HR headlines.

– Goldman Sachs will promote fewer executives to managing director roles than during its last round of promotions two years ago. Although more women received promotions this time around, fewer Latino and Black executives moved up. Reuters

– The U.S. scored 62% in a McKinsey survey of how physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually healthy employees are across 30 countries, higher than the global average. Turkey claimed the top spot, while Japan rounded out the bottom. Bloomberg

– New LinkedIn research found that 2% of employees have boomeranged back to former employers so far this year, mostly in government administration and education roles. WorkLife

– Walgreens will drop annual corporate bonuses this year and cut them significantly for store and pharmacy managers amid a drop in earnings and employee walkouts. CNN


Everything you need to know from Fortune.

Heavy load. A revival bid of trucking company Yellow could restore some jobs to the 30,000 employees let go when it shut down this summer. But it will take a lot of taxpayer money to do so. —Irina Ivanova

Hiring halt. More than two dozen top U.S. law firms signed a letter demanding that the country’s top law schools take an “unequivocal stance” against antisemitism on campus. If not addressed, the firms suggested they might stop recruiting from the universities. —Janet Lorin, Bloomberg

CV-less future. Three-fourths of companies surveyed by the talent assessment platform TestGorilla use skills-based hiring, and almost all say it is a better identifier of talent than CVs. A significant majority also say it reduces recruiting time, hiring-related costs, and the number of poor hires. —Orianna Rosa Royle

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Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama
Leah Sirama, a lifelong enthusiast of Artificial Intelligence, has been exploring technology and the digital realm since childhood. Known for his creative thinking, he's dedicated to improving AI experiences for all, making him a respected figure in the field. His passion, curiosity, and creativity drive advancements in the AI world.


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