Bill Gates sees an upside to the robots taking jobs from humans: taxes.
Harnessing technology helped make Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, the richest man in the world. Recently, he told the publication Quartz that technology can be harnessed to help maintain the social safety net for the communities that lose jobs to automation.
"Right now, the human worker who does, say, $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed and you get income tax, social security tax, all those things," Gates said in the interview. "If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level."
Automation is a hot topic these days, with American jobs a major focus of Donald Trump's presidency. He is pursuing policy that will incentivize companies creating manufacturing jobs in places like the Rust Belt and punish companies that move such jobs overseas.
But some analysts believe that many of the manufacturing jobs that stay in the U.S. will simply be automated. Roughly half the world's jobs could be automated with technology that already exists, accounting for $15 trillion in wages, according to a recent analysis by the McKinsey Global Institute.
In his farewell address, President Barack Obama warned of economic dislocation that comes "from the relentless pace of automation that makes many good, middle-class jobs obsolete."
Gates argues that taxing robots that take the place of American workers would help communities accept that kind of change, since they would benefit from the work the robots do.
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"It is really bad if people overall have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm. That means they won’t shape it for the positive things it can do," Gates told Quartz.
Gates isn't the only major player in the tech world thinking about how to help society adapt to the technology that's so quickly changing the way people interact.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg released a manifesto last week aiming to explain how his company will try to create a "social infrastructure to give people the power to build a global community that works for all of us."