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Old 10th March 2017, 06:53 AM   #1
applecorped
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Robot tax?

http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blo...awed-heres-why



Yay or nay?
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Old 10th March 2017, 06:59 AM   #2
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How do you define a robot though? Aside from being "your plastic pal who's fun to be with!", do you include all automation (doesn't seem workable), or robotic arms, or......something else.

One walk around our site and I find myself asking which bits would be counted as a robot?
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Old 10th March 2017, 07:25 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by wobs View Post
How do you define a robot though? Aside from being "your plastic pal who's fun to be with!", do you include all automation (doesn't seem workable), or robotic arms, or......something else.

One walk around our site and I find myself asking which bits would be counted as a robot?
I'm sure it's a solvable problem. An interesting challenge, but definitely solvable.
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Old 10th March 2017, 07:32 AM   #4
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You'll be wanting to tax my inflatable girlfriend next.
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Old 10th March 2017, 09:55 AM   #5
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I don't think it's feasible or necessary to tax robots.

Assuming the trend towards ever more sophisticated automation continues, we will have to consider a much more socialist type system (unless you're happy for the 99% slowly die in poverty).

Either we nationalize the automated factories and reduce prices to material cost, or we tax the company as a whole and provide a universal basic income.
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Old 10th March 2017, 10:24 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Octavo View Post
I don't think it's feasible or necessary to tax robots.

Assuming the trend towards ever more sophisticated automation continues, we will have to consider a much more socialist type system (unless you're happy for the 99% slowly die in poverty).

Either we nationalize the automated factories and reduce prices to material cost, or we tax the company as a whole and provide a universal basic income.
You are neglecting to consider the possibility of a resurgence of glorious Feudalism. The 99% needn't slowly die in poverty if they have a benevolent Lord who cares about his property.
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Old 10th March 2017, 12:10 PM   #7
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No taxation without representation! Give robots the vote!
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Old 10th March 2017, 12:20 PM   #8
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I do not understand what is the problem.

Robots are property, property is taxed, and therefore robots are already being taxed.
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Old 10th March 2017, 01:06 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
I do not understand what is the problem.

Robots are property, property is taxed, and therefore robots are already being taxed.
Property is taxed based on 'current value' while workers are taxed on productivity (indirectly via income tax).

But, robots are not 'property' they are 'capital assets', and as such are not taxed unless they are sold at a profit (after accounting for depreciation). Additionally, the depreciation of the robots can be counted as 'negative income' for the business, offsetting any income they might otherwise be taxed on (but raising the possibility of generating taxable income when/if the asset is sold by lowering it's 'asset value').
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Old 10th March 2017, 01:09 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
Property is taxed based on 'current value' while workers are taxed on productivity (indirectly via income tax).

But, robots are not 'property' they are 'capital assets', and as such are not taxed unless they are sold at a profit (after accounting for depreciation). Additionally, the depreciation of the robots can be counted as 'negative income' for the business, offsetting any income they might otherwise be taxed on (but raising the possibility of generating taxable income when/if the asset is sold by lowering it's 'asset value').
Thanks for the correction, but it still supports what I said.

Robots are taxed; Robots may be taxed as capital assets but Robots are still taxed all the same.
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Old 10th March 2017, 01:36 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
Thanks for the correction, but it still supports what I said.

Robots are taxed; Robots may be taxed as capital assets but Robots are still taxed all the same.
Robots are taxed. Their labor is not.
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Old 10th March 2017, 01:42 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Robots are taxed. Their labor is not.
But their productivity is, to the extent it is profitable.
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Old 10th March 2017, 01:50 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Robots are taxed. Their labor is not.
Sorry, but I do not quite follow ...

Unless the Robots are being paid for their labor, then it is not possible to tax the Robots for their labor.

However, the products and/or services that are produced by the Robots are taxed. Also, there is the capital asset tax applied to the Robots as well, so the Robots are being taxed twice.
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Old 10th March 2017, 09:37 PM   #14
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It is an issue that we are going to have to figure out as we continue as a species. I think that one of the issues is that few people understand the jobs that are actually threatened by automation. They tend to think factory workers, but in reality it's people like taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, couriers, receptionists, surgeons, pilots, sailors, fast food workers, postal workers, lumberjacks, stores (warehouse) people, and likely far more.

In the near future we are going to see Robots taking a lot more white collar work as well as the blue collar.
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Old 10th March 2017, 09:48 PM   #15
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What if the robots exploit the obvious legal loophole and have themselves officially recognized not as living beings but as undead? Then they'd join ranks with Dracula, other vampires, and ghosts and form an unstoppable electoral force. The Undeadobot Party would steamroller its way to total control of everything, and before we know it mechanical horrormen would be harvesting our blood for fuel and fun.
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Old 10th March 2017, 09:57 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
It is an issue that we are going to have to figure out as we continue as a species. I think that one of the issues is that few people understand the jobs that are actually threatened by automation. They tend to think factory workers, but in reality it's people like taxi drivers, bus drivers, truck drivers, couriers, receptionists, surgeons, pilots, sailors, fast food workers, postal workers, lumberjacks, stores (warehouse) people, and likely far more.

In the near future we are going to see Robots taking a lot more white collar work as well as the blue collar.
The only reason factory workers aren't as likely to be replaced is because we've already replaced most of them.
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Old 10th March 2017, 10:09 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
Thanks for the correction, but it still supports what I said.

Robots are taxed; Robots may be taxed as capital assets but Robots are still taxed all the same.
Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
Robots are taxed. Their labor is not.
Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
But their productivity is, to the extent it is profitable.
Capital assets are not taxed. Only the difference between the purchase price and sale price (Capital Gains) is taxed. You can even count the dropping of the potential future sale price (depreciation) against part of the current year's income.

In some year, your company makes a profit of $1000. You'd have to pay taxes on that. Instead, buy a robot for $1000, and count it against profits. No profit left = no taxes that year. Assume the robot is expected to last for 10 years: for the next 10 years, take $100 off the 'current asset value' of the robot, count it as 'negative income' and deduct it from any profit from what the company makes that year = pay less taxes. After 10 years, toss out old, valueless robot and repeat.
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Old 12th March 2017, 12:08 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
Capital assets are not taxed. Only the difference between the purchase price and sale price (Capital Gains) is taxed. You can even count the dropping of the potential future sale price (depreciation) against part of the current year's income.

In some year, your company makes a profit of $1000. You'd have to pay taxes on that. Instead, buy a robot for $1000, and count it against profits. No profit left = no taxes that year. Assume the robot is expected to last for 10 years: for the next 10 years, take $100 off the 'current asset value' of the robot, count it as 'negative income' and deduct it from any profit from what the company makes that year = pay less taxes. After 10 years, toss out old, valueless robot and repeat.
All of that ignores the robot being productive. If a $1000 robot does not earn you much more than $100 per year over its ten year life span then you will not be in business very long.
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Old 12th March 2017, 05:53 PM   #19
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Great idea, Mr Gates. If automation continues to put more people out of work, the government might get annoyed at losing the revenue from the income taxes on their salaries. If industry volunteers to pay the taxes, it's still saving big bucks on the salaries it's not paying, and the government won't care because it's still getting its cut too. Smart move!
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Old 13th March 2017, 06:54 AM   #20
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Government already inhales the productivity increases that technological advancement brings, by way of keeping borrowing proportional to GDP rather than being sufficient for supplying needs.

If there is an unexpected windfall like from the Internet bubble, government, embarrassed, will quickly re-adjust itself to re-unbalance the spending to get the borrowing back up.
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The government should nationalize it! Socialized, single-payer video game development and sales now! More, cheaper, better games, right? Right?
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Old 13th March 2017, 07:32 AM   #21
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Does anybody really think that a republican dominated US Government is going to start slapping major new taxes on industry?
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Old 13th March 2017, 08:34 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by applecorped View Post
I don't see it as very practical. At what level of productivity do you say "this is normal" and then tax based on improvements in productivity?
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Old 13th March 2017, 11:44 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
All of that ignores the robot being productive. If a $1000 robot does not earn you much more than $100 per year over its ten year life span then you will not be in business very long.
But we're not comparing "Having a $1000 robot that makes $100,000 in product" to "Not making any product". We're comparing "Having a $1000 robot that makes $100,000 in product" to "Having $50,000 in humans that make $100,000 in product, that we also have to pay payroll taxes for, and provide insurance for, and maintain a viable work environment for". The robot doesn't make any new income.

The real problem is that when a lumber mill replaces 10 workers and 1 machine with 1 worker and 10 machines to make the same lumber, we end up with 1 unchanged worker, 9 unemployed people that can no longer afford to buy the lumber, and company profits can be offset by the price of the 9 new robots. We have the same lumber, but the 9 unemployed workers don't pay taxes, and the company pays fewer taxes: it's lower taxes all-around.

ETA: That's the problem, the solution offered by Gates is like most of his other 'solutions' I've come to expect from him: seems decent at first glance, but falls apart like wet paper bag under any actual scrutiny.
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Old 13th March 2017, 12:16 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by Crossbow View Post
Thanks for the correction, but it still supports what I said.

Robots are taxed; Robots may be taxed as capital assets but Robots are still taxed all the same.
I'm not sure why you think robots are taxed as capital assets.

At the moment, AFAIK, capital classes such as robots actually create a tax deduction (in Canada, we call it the [Capital Cost Allowance]) also sometimes referred to as 'depreciation'.

For example, my business computers allow me to deduct a CCA of 30% each year from my taxable profits.

At this point, robots as factory capital technically probably have a negative tax rate of 30% per year.


ETA: GodMark2 has already made this point, sorry.
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Old 13th March 2017, 12:53 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
But we're not comparing "Having a $1000 robot that makes $100,000 in product" to "Not making any product". We're comparing "Having a $1000 robot that makes $100,000 in product" to "Having $50,000 in humans that make $100,000 in product, that we also have to pay payroll taxes for, and provide insurance for, and maintain a viable work environment for". The robot doesn't make any new income.

The real problem is that when a lumber mill replaces 10 workers and 1 machine with 1 worker and 10 machines to make the same lumber, we end up with 1 unchanged worker, 9 unemployed people that can no longer afford to buy the lumber, and company profits can be offset by the price of the 9 new robots. We have the same lumber, but the 9 unemployed workers don't pay taxes, and the company pays fewer taxes: it's lower taxes all-around.

ETA: That's the problem, the solution offered by Gates is like most of his other 'solutions' I've come to expect from him: seems decent at first glance, but falls apart like wet paper bag under any actual scrutiny.
Then we outlaw spreadsheet software in accounting departments, that kind of labor saving is not acceptable. Think how much in taxes a copy of excel will cost you in this idea.
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Old 14th March 2017, 08:30 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
But we're not comparing "Having a $1000 robot that makes $100,000 in product" to "Not making any product". We're comparing "Having a $1000 robot that makes $100,000 in product" to "Having $50,000 in humans that make $100,000 in product, that we also have to pay payroll taxes for, and provide insurance for, and maintain a viable work environment for". The robot doesn't make any new income.

The real problem is that when a lumber mill replaces 10 workers and 1 machine with 1 worker and 10 machines to make the same lumber, we end up with 1 unchanged worker, 9 unemployed people that can no longer afford to buy the lumber, and company profits can be offset by the price of the 9 new robots. We have the same lumber, but the 9 unemployed workers don't pay taxes, and the company pays fewer taxes: it's lower taxes all-around.

ETA: That's the problem, the solution offered by Gates is like most of his other 'solutions' I've come to expect from him: seems decent at first glance, but falls apart like wet paper bag under any actual scrutiny.
Odd. I've never worked with a company who used robots to stagnate. Most companies use them as a part of a growth strategy. I keep my core workers and expand my machines and make more product for cheaper.

I suppose your experience is different.

For example, I've found that producing well typed work product without a pool of typists has been generally good for most companies I work with. It allows them to focus on their core business. But I do remember the night shift of typists that law firms used to employ to transcribe every old partner's dictation. Are we to weep for these lost careers?
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Old 14th March 2017, 08:52 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by ponderingturtle View Post
Then we outlaw spreadsheet software in accounting departments, that kind of labor saving is not acceptable. Think how much in taxes a copy of excel will cost you in this idea.
And all those typing pool jobs that went with the introduction of word processors.

ETA: And I only just read Dr. Keith's post above, that essentially makes the same point!

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Old 14th March 2017, 08:57 AM   #28
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Originally Posted by Tolls View Post
And all those typing pool jobs that went with the introduction of word processors.

ETA: And I only just read Dr. Keith's post above, that essentially makes the same point!
And I felt bad after reading ponderingturtle's post!
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Old 14th March 2017, 08:58 AM   #29
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The point is we didn't tax the cotton gin and I don't see us taxing any other labor saving devices going forward. It simply isn't consistent with how we tax.
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Old 14th March 2017, 09:12 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
The point is we didn't tax the cotton gin and I don't see us taxing any other labor saving devices going forward. It simply isn't consistent with how we tax.
Then you will at some point end a dead end, where a lot of worker will have replaced by robots, and find no more jobs.

And before you cite me past example of revolution : past example had new tech coming to displace worker toward an already existing and burgeoning new sector. There is no such new sector today where displaced worker without training or study can fill.
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Old 14th March 2017, 09:21 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Aepervius View Post
There is no such new sector today where displaced worker without training or study can fill.
I dispute that there ever was. Hence the need for training and study.
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Old 14th March 2017, 11:08 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
Odd. I've never worked with a company who used robots to stagnate. Most companies use them as a part of a growth strategy. I keep my core workers and expand my machines and make more product for cheaper.

I suppose your experience is different.
For some things, there isn't an inexhaustible pool of demand: lowering the sales price doesn't lead to enough demand increase to be effective. Any customers you do manage to acquire aren't created ex nihlo, but come from another supplier's demand pool. This means that that supplier now no longer needs as much of his production force. So, while for a single company, there may be a net increase in sales, the total workforce needed to supply all the demand will likely decrease.

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For example, I've found that producing well typed work product without a pool of typists has been generally good for most companies I work with. It allows them to focus on their core business. But I do remember the night shift of typists that law firms used to employ to transcribe every old partner's dictation. Are we to weep for these lost careers?
That depends on a lot of factors. Does universal access to affordable healthcare depend on everyone having a fultime job? Does having sufficient funds for roadway maintenance depend on everyone having a fultime job? Education funds? Disaster relief? Does an individual's ability to feed their family depend on having a fulltime job?

Some argue that new jobs will be created in new/different industries to replace the ones lost to automation. But automation has been making progress at an astounding rate recently, and may be able to automate *every* job in the forseeable future.

Are we to weep for the loss of *every* career?1


1Hyperbole for emphasis
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Old 14th March 2017, 12:25 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by GodMark2 View Post
For some things, there isn't an inexhaustible pool of demand: lowering the sales price doesn't lead to enough demand increase to be effective. Any customers you do manage to acquire aren't created ex nihlo, but come from another supplier's demand pool. This means that that supplier now no longer needs as much of his production force. So, while for a single company, there may be a net increase in sales, the total workforce needed to supply all the demand will likely decrease.



That depends on a lot of factors. Does universal access to affordable healthcare depend on everyone having a fultime job? Does having sufficient funds for roadway maintenance depend on everyone having a fultime job? Education funds? Disaster relief? Does an individual's ability to feed their family depend on having a fulltime job?

Some argue that new jobs will be created in new/different industries to replace the ones lost to automation. But automation has been making progress at an astounding rate recently, and may be able to automate *every* job in the forseeable future.

Are we to weep for the loss of *every* career?1


1Hyperbole for emphasis
I think you mislabeled the hyperbole.

Robot owner seems like a pretty sweet gig, for one.
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Old 15th March 2017, 03:24 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Dr. Keith View Post
I think you mislabeled the hyperbole.

Robot owner seems like a pretty sweet gig, for one.
While it is hyperbole, it's also not far from the truth.

We have an example near me and I was actually on the project. We are in oil and gas country and back in the 70's a large gas field was found offshore. This resulted in a manned platform and an onshore gas processing plant. The platform has accommodation for 71 people, though has around 40 people stationed on it any any one time. The Processing plant has around the same, so overall about 80-90 people work directly in the plants and more as offsite support.

In the mid 2000's we put in a new platform and processing plant for a newly discovered field. The entire thing is run by 4 people who work in shifts. Only one of them is on duty at any given point of time. The only times that there are more personnel involved is during shutdowns to do inspections.

And that is not the only unmanned platform either, we have at least two others out there, so what should have required around 150-200 people in the 1980's is now being run by less than a dozen all thanks to automation!

Wherever machines can work faster, more accurate and with less risk than a human, human workers will be replaced by them. In the future, if not already, we'll see entire factories that have one or two people sitting in front of screens in a control room watching the factory humming away and there will be no one else there.

When we hit that point, and likely well before, what do we do about the mass unemployment it creates?
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Old 15th March 2017, 08:47 PM   #35
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I am all for Bill Gate's idea on taxing the work performed by robots like we tax the work performed by employees.
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Old 16th March 2017, 04:05 AM   #36
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I don't see why it's reasonable to tax businesses for using labour saving machinery and techniques because otherwise you're only going to left behind by others who readily adopt them.

Quite honestly the core issue with labour saving machines and techniques that make workers redundant, partially or completely, is that the there's a very real possibility that said workers won't be able to benefit at all. Others might benefit from cheaper products and services but you need a mechanism in place that keeps the now unemployed workers from not benefiting at all.

Social welfare, unemployment benefits and reeducation opportunities are examples. Taxing the profits the businesses make to pay for such provisions makes more sense than reducing the incentive adopt said labour saving machinery and techniques.
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Old 16th March 2017, 04:40 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
I am all for Bill Gate's idea on taxing the work performed by robots like we tax the work performed by employees.
There is a concept which defines the foundations of USA which might make this a can of worms I rather wouldn't open.

It's called "No taxation without representation."

If robots become sentient and we tax them we'll have to give them all other rights we give to humans sooner or later.

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Old 16th March 2017, 05:31 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by Arcade22 View Post
I don't see why it's reasonable to tax businesses for using labour saving machinery and techniques because otherwise you're only going to left behind by others who readily adopt them.

Quite honestly the core issue with labour saving machines and techniques that make workers redundant, partially or completely, is that the there's a very real possibility that said workers won't be able to benefit at all. Others might benefit from cheaper products and services but you need a mechanism in place that keeps the now unemployed workers from not benefiting at all.

Social welfare, unemployment benefits and reeducation opportunities are examples. Taxing the profits the businesses make to pay for such provisions makes more sense than reducing the incentive adopt said labour saving machinery and techniques.
I believe that the idea is not to add a disincentive to doing it, but to have the company take some responsibility for putting its workers out of work, and then use that money to help those past workers have a universal living allowance so they don't starve, especially when a large part of the workforce has been made redundant by machines.
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Old 16th March 2017, 05:29 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by McHrozni View Post
There is a concept which defines the foundations of USA which might make this a can of worms I rather wouldn't open.

It's called "No taxation without representation."

If robots become sentient and we tax them we'll have to give them all other rights we give to humans sooner or later.

McHrozni
That's a whole lot of silly wrapped up in one post. The goods I buy have a tax and don't get any representation.
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Old 17th March 2017, 12:02 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by qayak View Post
That's a whole lot of silly wrapped up in one post. The goods I buy have a tax and don't get any representation.
That's precisely the reason slavery wasn't condemned in the first US constitution. Reportedly Thomas Jefferson wanted to include it, but was shot down by slave-owning founding fathers. Slaves were goods that one could buy or sell, and as goods they didn't have any representation.

Kind of like self-aware robots, really.

Fun fact: the word "robot" comes from Czech word for slave.

If you tax robots in the same way as you tax humans, you'll be expected to give them rights appropriate to their kind sooner rather than later. I'm not saying this is a bad thing per se, just a can of worms you need to open and ensure the worms don't escape and cause all sorts of trouble.

Programming all robots to be happy only if they abstain from elections is a good start.

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