WELL IT’S HAPPENED: ROBOTS ARE BEING TAXED…August 28, 2019
Just last year, former Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban development Catherine Austin Fitts said a truly astounding and insightful thing during a recording session of one of her Solari report quarterly wrap ups. When she said it, I had to do a (very) quick mental "calculation" of what she had said and why she had said it, as we always record those conversations live, with little to know preparation other than going over points she wants to talk about. The conversations themselves are always ad libitum, and they're a great deal of fun because ... well, because they keep one on one's toes!
What she stated was that she thought that the whole push to recognize transgenderism was not about transgendered people at all; the real goal, she said, was so that they could tax robots. It was one of those statements that often just gets "tossed out there" during those conversations that really make one stop to do that quick "mental calculation." In this case, those few seconds of mental calculation showed that she was on to something, for how would one "sneak in" a taxing capability of a robot? After all, robots are (1) sexless (unless you're in Japan and having "sex" with them) and (2) they don't reproduce "in the conventional way." So if one wants to sneak in yet another legal fiction (like corporate personhood), in this case, the implied personhood of a robot for tax purposes, how would one do it? One might design robots that can reproduce "in the conventional way", but that might take too long and cost too much money. The other way would be to blur society's implied cultural norms by blurring one of the traditional features of actual human personhood itself: the sex of an individual, first by renaming it "gender," and then once that linguistic characteristic has been substituted for the "sex" of the person, by pretending to manipulate sexuality and hence the sex of the individual, by manipulations of language. Regardless of whether one agrees with it (or even my analysis of it), it's awfully clever. The door is kicked open to the eventual de facto recognition of robots as "persons" regardless of whether or not one of them, or a group of them, actually "wake up" and start showing the signs of actual personhood.
Well, it's already happened, according to this article spotted and shared by V.T. (and a big thank you for sending it along!):
Now, as the article points out, we've not come to the point of direct taxation of robots, but already indirect taxation is being levied:
Uncle Sam is padding the Treasury with millions of dollars to assess bots at the same time that corporations invest more in advanced technology and labor-saving machinery, according to experts.
New “robot” taxes are expected to multiply in the coming decades as millions of Americans see their jobs automated away.
“Yes, governments already tax robots because they tax virtually everything that goes into developing and making robots,” economist and author Mark Thornton told The Post. “In a few cases, there are subsidies such as government grants for robot development. But that still means they are taxing you and me to provide the subsidies.”
But wait, here's the loophole:
Taxing robots — a proposal first suggested by Microsoft founder Bill Gates in 2017 as a way for government to tame the inexorable ascent of machines, and to finance new programs like elder care and education — is back on the front burner.
A robot that replaces a factory worker who produces say, $50,000 of work annually, should be taxed at the same level to offset losses in income and Social Security taxes, Gates calculates.
For many, it’s a total pain in the bot. “Anytime employers hear this talk, they cringe because they feel they’re already paying enough in taxes,” said Greg Fritsky, national director of robotics, AI and data analytics at EisnerAmper.
So let's read between the lines a bit with some high octane speculation, though in this instance we're not at the end of the twig, but more over toward the trunk of the tree. As intimated in the article, corporations are already complaining about their rate of taxation. If robots become part of the assets that corporations will be taxed upon, an intriguing scenario could result, whereby it becomes more profitable for a corporation to move its plant to a sweat shop overseas employing humans, than to "employ" robots in country "x" which it will have to pay taxes upon. A possible solution is - here it comes - to spin the robots loose from the corporation itself, and to recognize them as employees, that is to say, as persons, who are taxed directly. Since no one can make any sense of this country's tax code (not even your standard employee robot), whole new businesses will open with robot tax preparers specializing in robot taxation and... well, I exaggerate but you get the idea.
Still, we're a long ways from Isaac Asimov's all-but-human robots, but it is a fact that more and more jobs that humans now perform could eventually be done by robots. And with that comes the Asimovian prediction: eventually, so many things will be done by robots that society will break down, because the humans who used to perform certain tasks no longer know how to do so, and the robots that repair other robots have themselves - like all machines - broken down. Already we have robo-trains roaming the rails, robo trucks plying the highways, and I suspect eventually robo-pilots flying you to France, and so on. Why bother to learn how to be a pilot, or a locomotive engineer, or drive a car, when a robot will do it for you? Many automobile companies 's assembly lines are largely robotized. But what happens when the system goes down, and you still need to build cars? Who knows how?
I don't know about you, but to me the robotized future - complete with robots-as-taxable-persons - doesn't look so bright. Maybe it's time to reconsider the rush to robotization: why have robots do anything that humans can do, especially if the dangers of a system-collapse, as Asimov warned decades ago, seem to be inherent in it? Humans are error prone, to be sure... so why multiply the problems by having error-prone humans designing robots? Or to put it differently, maybe Asimov was on to something...
See you on the flip side...