A UBI is an unconditional payment that all individuals would receive in the form of a government stipend. The stipend will be given out for the entire course of an individuals lifetime providing a safety net for those that cannot find work. The payment would be enough to sustain a person's basic needs and because of this, it would replace all other publicly financed support. The system would be financed by taxes on those that earn an income above the subsistence level. The idea originated around the 19th century and gained popularity during the 20th century.
It's not a new idea and it’s important to talk about now because we need to be prepared for a future filled with more robots. A potential fix to the economic instability would be the idea of a robot tax. This would move money from the hands of the rich, but it would lead to a slow down in technological progress thus putting countries that implement the policy at a distinct disadvantage relative to countries that don’t. Therefore, the best way to solve the problem of job loss is to implement a system for the redistribution of wealth. This is where a Universal Basic Income comes in, and it's why Andrew Yang supports the idea.
However, it's important to realize that this isn't the first time people were afraid of technology taking away jobs. It's a pattern that has repeated itself many times throughout history starting with a fear that the printing press would take away jobs from monks. Another example was during the 18th century when fears over the impact of machinery taking jobs intensified.
This fear of losing our jobs has happened many times throughout history, but unemployment never stays low. Yes, there may be an economic shift, but the employment rate always bounces back. Jobs are created by that new piece of technology freeing up time for people to do other things. One of those things may be to create more printing presses. However, obviously, not as many jobs will be needed to make the new technology as there will be removed by the technology hence the fear. But, jobs aren't a fixed commodity. Jobs are created by the endless creativity of people finding new things to do. If there are no more jobs doing hard farm work then that frees up time for us to make music. And that also frees up resources for people to pay for that music hence "dubstep producer" becoming a new job.
This is why using artificial intelligence or robots as an argument for a Universal Basic Income is a problematic one. With that argument falling apart, what's left? Well, you could argue that UBI would help improve how happy people are with their jobs because it would give people more opportunity to search for a job that they truly enjoy. It's hard to argue whether or not that's worth the risk, but I'd love to hear what you have to say about it in the comments.