More than Meets the AI: Universal Basic Freaking Income (UBFI)

Today’s column is brought to you by the letters U, B, F, and I. The “F” is optional but, in the next couple of decades, the “UBI” part will likely spell the difference between who gets to eat and who gets exploited into starvation.

3, 2, 1, intro time:

Issue #3

  • Anything but basic (484 words)
  • The Scenario (339 words)
  • Apologetics 101 (312 words)

Anything but basic

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender.” My first memory, circa about 1981, takes place in a house with busted-out windows in the front. We lived a block away from the Detroit city line. It would’ve been sometime around my fourth birthday, which means it was winter in Michigan.

My mother worked hard, but without the support of her family, friends, or the father of her children, her sweat wasn’t enough to put food on the table consistently. She took college courses at night and ended up getting an associate’s degree in something business related.

Finally, with a college degree in hand, she set out to leave her menial jobs behind in order to earn the kind of money it would take for a single woman in the early 1980s to support her family.

Only, nobody gives you a car, insurance, and gas money when you graduate with an associate’s degree from a community college. Nobody hands you clothes for your job interviews. The college doesn’t set you up with child care services so you can work two jobs in between driving all over town delivering applications and sitting for interviews. You don’t get scheduled breaks or nap hours. And lord help the single, overworked parent with a sick child, no insurance, and no money for medical bills.

One of my brothers died as a baby. Two others moved to different homes before I was five. Simply put, my family was shattered by poverty. To this day, my siblings and I don’t talk. We never learned how to be a part of a family.

I’m sure I don’t have to show you the dozens of studies that demonstrably associate childhood hunger with poor adult outcomes.

And, I’m also sure that I don’t have to show you the myriad studies that demonstrate how a universal basic income can raise people directly out of poverty and send them on a path towards becoming a physically and mentally healthy, contributing citizen.

Because here are the only facts you need to know: the story you just finished reading is absolutely true and it won’t change a single person’s mind about UBI.

Until we start seeing each other as people, not political levers, kids are going to keep going hungry despite their parents’ best efforts.

What does any of this have to do with pre-AGI? 

My mother started out poor and ended up that way too. And nobody gave a damn. But, with 20,000+ people being laid off from big tech jobs this month and, potentially, hundreds of thousands to come as AI technologies ramp up in usefulness over the next 10 years or so, we’re going to reach a point where enough people in the middle class suddenly find out what it feels like to watch their kids miss meals.

And that’s when the era of the UBI will begin.

The scenario

No batteries included, and no strings attached

No holds barred, no time for move-fakin’

Gots to get the loot so I can bring home the bacon

In this corner: Google’s bringing back Larry Page and Sergey Brin to deal with the threat posed by ChatGPT.

In the other corner: Alphabet is laying off 12,000 people.

Let me untangle this weirdness for you. Go ahead and read a couple news articles first so you can catch up, then I’ll tell you what’s really happening here.

ChatGPT AI Threat Pulls Google Co-Founders Back Into Action, Report Says – CNET

Google parent Alphabet is cutting 12,000 jobs | CNN Business

Okay, caught up? Good. Let’s start with the layoffs.

So, essentially, Google swelled up like a balloon during the pandemic tech boom. Now, Sundar Pichai (and just about every other big tech CEO) is out there gasping with his eyes wide as he shockingly declares that the economy was different when he hired all those people.

On the one hand, those people are reportedly getting two months pay and four months severance — note to self: I’m in the wrong business — but on the other, they’re probably just a drop in the bucket compared to what’s coming down the pipeline. 

Either way, Google’s probably my number two pick behind Microsoft when it comes to companies who are poised to lead the “recession? What recession?” parade this fall.

Now, on to Page and Brin rejoining the company to discuss day-to-day ops. CNET reports this came at the behest of Sundar Pichai and… I’ve heard enough. 

As I recall, Page and Brin were largely responsible for Google’s shift to an “AI-first” company back in 2018 before they rode off into the sunset. Chances are we’re about to see a similar shift. 

My guess is that Google’s about to shift its main focus to pre-AGI tech. That doesn’t mean it’ll change operations or deprioritize Search.

What it means is that the ultimate arbiters are coming to the office to determine where the ultimate focus should be. 

Apologetics 101:

Someone whom I once respected as a science-minded person and even considered a great thinker recently came out as a hardcore racist in such a way as to clearly demonstrate an inability to understand even the most basic of scientific principles.

I don’t want to get into it, because this person doesn’t deserve any more mention than that.

But, I will add that, per the usual, this person’s apology was almost as repugnant as their actions. It never ceases to amaze me that grown people can be so gobsmackingly selfish and petty.

There’s an old trope where two little kids are arguing and one of them calls the other “stupid.” 

Their mother intervenes and says “now Billy, you tell your sister that you’re sorry!” So Billy turns to his sister and says “I’m sorry that you’re stupid.”

It’s worth a chuckle when you’re thinking about little kids. But, if Billy were an adult, he’d be exhibiting dangerous narcissistic tendencies and displaying borderline psychopathic behavior.

Any rational person knows it’s in their best interest just to do what “mom” says in that situation. Any person with empathy understands that it’s not nice to call people “stupid.” Any intelligent person knows that intelligence manifests in myriad ways.

Thus, a rational, intelligent adult who is capable of empathy would always give a sincere apology in those circumstances.

So whenever we see someone who has clearly offended others give an apology that is defensive, guarded and focused on how much the person issuing it would like to move on with their life, we can be absolutely certain that we’re dealing with a person for whom empathy, kindness, and reason are strangers.

And I don’t care how smart they are. There’s always someone smarter. STEM doesn’t need individuals, it needs communities. Those who would poison those communities aren’t working towards our future, they’re clinging to their past.

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