One of the key moments of Tesla's TSLA AI Day in August 2021 was the unveiling of the Tesla Bot, a humanoid robot, which was highlighted by CEO Elon Musk. The introduction of robots by Tesla that could be used for a number of sectors could bring up an old debate of whether robots should be taxed.
What Happened: Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corporation MSFT, said in 2017 that robots should be taxed if they take people’s jobs.
“If a human worker does $50,000 of work in a factory, that income is taxed,” Gates said. “If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think we’d tax the robot at a similar level.”
The European Union said it would not support a robot tax. The EU said it was not in favor of taxing robots, as it could slow down progress and put European countries behind other countries around the world that do not plan to levy taxes.
“This is the wrong solution,” Oren Etzioni told CNBC at the time. The college professor argued that Gates would likely not have been in favor of putting taxes on PCs that took clerical workers jobs away.
“What happens if every country doesn’t do this,” Author Martin Ford argued. Ford noted that taxing robots could turn into a competitive issue, similar to what the EU said on losing a competitive advantage.
Why It’s Important: The debate of whether robots should be taxed was highlighted by Anthony Pompliano.
“You do know that Bill Gates has come out multiple times and said that robots should be taxed,” Pomplliano said.
Pompliano discussed the debate over the call by Gates to tax robots on his “The Best Business Show,” highlighting the European Union being against a tax years prior.
Gates wants to tax robots and Musk wants to send robots to Mars, Pompliano told viewers.
“There’s two different views of the world here.”
Musk has suggested that the robots could be sent to work on Mars, replying to a user on Twitter.
Pompliano said that humans won’t end up homeless and unemployed due to the rise of robotics in new job areas like factories. He compared the fact that many people were farmers for years and years before a shift put people in other job fields.
“This will drastically push us forward. We should probably not tax the robots.”
To highlight a sector that was feared to lose jobs due to automation, Pompliano shared a graph of the number of human bank tellers versus the rise of automated bank tellers (ATMs).
“Technology tends to create more jobs on aggregate, rather than destroy jobs.”
Pompliano’s tweet sharing the video of Gates calling for taxes did spark a response from businessman and NBA team owner Mark Cuban.
“It’s not just about replacement. It’s about generating revenues to minimize other tax increases,” Cuban tweeted with the hashtag #TaxTheRobots.
“We don’t need more revenue. We need to get more efficient at what we spend,” Pompliano replied, noting that the U.S. has collected record federal income tax every year for a decade, but the deficit grows wider.
The Tesla robots are a work in progress and could be sold to the public next year. They could end up taking jobs from people like vehicle drivers and other sectors. Some of the areas of focus have seen a shortage of workers.
Will Bill Gates come out in favor of taxing the Tesla robots? Stay tuned.
Originally published on Aug. 21, 2021.
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