On 16 February 2017, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on recommendations made to the Commission on civil law in the field of robotics. The resolution is ground-breaking in the sense that it attempts to establish a regulatory framework for artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced robotics.
Given the technological changes currently occurring, robotics and artificial intelligence have become one of the most significant trends. Due to the fact that these technologies are being developed at a rapid pace and are being used more and more, society and the world of work are now facing new and difficult challenges.
Robotics and basic income
The concept of an unconditional basic income to compensate for a loss of jobs due to intelligent machines was originally adopted by the Committee on Legal Affairs. However, the majority of MEPs rejected the concept. A basic unconditional income and a robot tax were among the most controversial proposals.
Springboard for discussing employment models
The original proposal drafted by the Committee on Legal Affairs acts as a springboard for discussing new employment models and for assessing the sustainability of existing tax and social models. It is unclear how citizens can be guaranteed a sufficient income in light of the decline in the number of jobs. The starting point should be to ensure that they have an income which guarantees their livelihood by possibly introducing an unconditional basic income.
The Committee on Legal Affairs proposed that a basic income or assistance for workers who have lost their job as a result of robots could be financed by a tax levied on services provided by robots or a fee for using and maintaining a robot.
However, instead of an unconditional basic income, the plenum of the European Parliament could only bring themselves to speak about programmes which ease the transition to a new job.
Commission Vice-President Ansip rejects robot tax
Vice-President Ansip has also spoken out against a robot tax. At the start of CEBIT, the world’s largest IT expo, he stressed that a tax on progress was not a smart idea. Robotics and artificial intelligence are essential for Europe’s competitiveness; levying a tax would be counterproductive because other countries would then take the EU’s place.
Consultation on the Committee on Legal Affairs’ report
The Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament has launched a public consultation to continue the debate over the report. Interested parties have until 30 April 2017 to make a submission.
The consultation will also contribute to possible further European Parliament initiatives.
More information on the public consultation can be found here.