Robots and automation might result in an unexpected benefit for societies: the guarantee of a universal basic income.

In an interview with CNBC last week, Tesla Motors Corporation (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk said that “there is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that”. He based his assessment on the prospect of increased automation in society. Given that his companies use robots and automation extensively in their products and that he has started a non-profit to explore judicious uses for artificial intelligence, Musk should know a thing or two about such matters.

The idea of a Universal Basic Income has social and economic resonance. It would guarantee demand and eliminate inequality. (See also: Is A Universal Basic Income Practical?) However, to guarantee such a measure, a country would need to have a high degree of automation to ensure that the cogs and levers responsible for the daily functioning of society can move forward. In turn, this means that only economies which are highly-developed and rich can make the leap, at least initially.

Several Western economies have already begun testing the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Prominent economists have written about it and some countries have already begun introducing the idea in proposals.

Switzerland rejected one such proposal earlier this year in an initiative that suggested amounts of $2,555 for adults and $633 for each child as universal basic income for each person. Critics of the idea said guarantees of an income would draw a flood of immigrants to the country. Finland, which has a high unemployment rate, is planning a similar pilot system for 8,000 low-income and unemployed citizens. Per polls, four out of every five Finns is in favor of a universal basic income.

Closer home, Silicon Valley incubator Y Combinator has a pilot experiment in Oakland, where it has chosen 100 families who will receive minimum wage. “If technology eliminates jobs or jobs continue to become less secure, an increasing number of people will be unable to make ends meet with earnings from employment. Basic income is one way to ensure that people are able to meet their basic needs,” explained Elizabeth Rhodes, director of YC Research, the incubator arm responsible for the experiment.

In Musk’s version of the future, such income will leave people with more leisure time. “"People will have time to do other things, more complex things, more interesting things,” he said. As an example, he said that there will be less truck drivers and more fleet operators, who will help navigate self-driving vehicles.

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