- The Washington Times - Monday, February 20, 2017

Bill Gates wants the federal government to impose “robot taxes” in the future on companies that opt for technological labor over human hands.

The Microsoft co-founder made the statement to Quartz last week while discussing his advocacy of taxing companies’ profits as a means of funding job-training in other fields.

“There will be taxes that relate to automation,” Mr. Gates said Friday. “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. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think that we’d tax the robot at a similar level.

“And what the world wants is to take this opportunity to make all the goods and services we have today, and free up labor, let us do a better job of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class sizes, helping kids with special needs,” he said. “You know, all of those are things where human empathy and understanding are still very, very unique. And we still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there.”

He made the public policy prescription for companies that use artificial intelligence, though he himself was not taxed for job displacement as his products catapulted him to over $79 billion in net worth.

Mr. Gates said that taxing companies that use A.I. is a better alternative than banning them from using such technologies.

“I don’t think the robot companies are going to be outraged that there might be a tax. It’s OK,” he said.

The businessman rejected the idea that free-market solutions were sufficient for addressing societal changes created by A.I.

“Well, business can’t [adequately handle such problems]. If you want to do [something about] inequity, a lot of the excess labor is going to need to go help the people who have lower incomes,” he said. “And so it means that you can amp up social services for old people and handicapped people and you can take the education sector and put more labor in there. Yes, some of it will go to, ‘Hey, we’ll be richer and people will buy more things.’ But the inequity-solving part, absolutely government’s got a big role to play there. The nice thing about taxation though, is that it really separates the issue: ‘OK, so that gives you the resources, now how do you want to deploy it?’”

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