The Texas weather disaster of the past month makes one realize that we all need to re-think our way of thinking if human beings are to survive. Texas suffered greatly from too little electricity for its population because the state is not part of the national grid. It cannot share from other states when disaster hits it. The anti-liberals blame the problem on the state’s reliance on solar and wind energy, except that only 13% of the state’s energy comes from those sources. Those who favor solar and wind pooh-pooh this argument, and they are correct. But they don’t tell us how a future disaster would be met if the state were far more reliant on solar and wind. Perhaps the best solution would be to hook up to the national grid. Then study all the various solutions and come up with the best ones for normal times and for disaster times.
We need to keep conscious of technical developments and make changes as needed. Climate change is caused by too much reliance on fossil fuels – and yet the United States continues to rely upon them. We do not have nearly enough transport in common, and our automobiles are usually driven with only one person inside. We should be thinking of ways to encourage multi-passengers in cars, particularly when people drive to work. That solution would also help stop traffic jams and wear and tear on roads.
But even more helpful might be the development of Zoom and other applications, because they permit more people to work from home and not even have to drive to work. For example, lawyers, psychologists, architects, and other professionals can now begin to meet with their clients over the internet. They can stay at home, and so can their clients, while they consider client questions. No one needs to drive unnecessarily. But that won’t happen unless professionals start to rethink how they meet with clients and price things accordingly.
Let’s consider a psychologist with a “virtual office.” The psychologist works from home and so does his or her secretary. Everything with patients is done over the internet, except perhaps for the first meeting. That meeting can be done in a coffee shop. As a result, the psychologist doesn’t need an office. All the records are in the computer. Correspondence with the patient and with other persons is no longer done via snail mail. The result is a far lower cost of doing business, and no need for travel.
Let’s consider professional conventions. There’s going to be a large global psychotherapy conference in Anaheim, CA, on December 1-5, 2021. Why is it “in person”? The speeches can all be given over the Internet, and the participants can gather together in smaller breakout sessions to discuss anything they want. About the only reason for the in-person aspect is so that the participants can meet and have a drink or dinner together. And, as people all over have discovered, they can have those personal meetings virtually as well. While the airlines won’t appreciate a diminution in their business, less travel means less pollution and less danger to the planet. Not to mention, of course, that less travel lowers the overall need of psychotherapists for money.
Finally, what about our tax system? Everyone agrees that our tax system is overly complex. But so is much of our economic system. Suppose we got rid of physical cash and everyone had a single electronic card for income and expenses? That would mean that everyone should have a precise and accurate system for taxes as well. We could eliminate the complexity of the tax system by having a value added tax system, which would cover the taxes of most of the population. The very wealthy could be covered by an income tax system, or, better still, a wealth tax. And the poor could be covered by universal basic income. The right to UBI would be governed by income from other sources – your UBI goes down as your other income goes up. We could probably eliminate a lot of accountants, tax agents, and the like.
I don’t want to suggest for a minute that job elimination should just happen, without adjustment. It has already become quite apparent that the “job” may really be a think of the past. We have jobs being eliminated through artificial intelligence and robots. We need to rethink our social needs for human labor. If that means more government jobs, so be it. Our focus should be on people and their needs. People need occupations, if only so that they will feel that their lives have meaning.
Let’s consider what we would do if AI and robots provided all the basic needs of humanity. What would we do? Two things, I hope: provide for all the needs of living human beings, and make sure that they all have occupations so that their psychological needs are met. That way, we might all have happier lives.