Life with A.I.

Billionaire Richard Branson: A.I. is going to eliminate jobs and free cash handouts will be necessary

Sir Richard Branson.
Cameron Costa | CNBC

Billionaire serial entrepreneur Richard Branson says cash handouts will eventually be required to keep people from becoming homeless in the US.

"I think with the coming on of AI and other things there is certainly a danger of income inequality," Branson tells CNN's Christine Romans in a piece published Thursday.

The inequality will be caused by "the amount of jobs [artificial intelligence] is going to take away and so on," Branson says. "There is no question" technology will eliminate jobs, he says.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates echoed this sentiment recently. "AI is just the latest in technologies that allow us to produce a lot more goods and services with less labor," says Gates, speaking with "Hamilton" composer Lin-Manuel Miranda and his wife, Melinda, at Hunter College in New York City earlier in February. "AI will bring us immense new productivity."

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So new jobs will have to be created, says Branson.

But also, a "basic minimum earnings," or a universal basic income, should be instituted "so that there is nobody that is having to sleep on the street," Branson tells CNN. "One hundred percent, I think that is really important."

Universal basic income is a cash handout, distributed irrespective of employment status.

CNN's Romans says a common opposition to a cash handouts is that it would create a "nanny state," where individuals are disincentivized to work.

"Some people will call it that," says Branson, "but I think that it will come about one day," because it will happen "out of necessity."

To prepare, cities should experiment with universal basic income, says Branson.

Billionaire SpaceX and Tesla chief Elon Musk told CNBC in 2016 that he expects cash handouts will be necessary too.

"There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," says Musk to CNBC. "Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen."

Additionally, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg promoted the idea of universal basic income during his commencement speech to Harvard in May.

"Now it's our time to define a new social contract for our generation. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things," says Zuckerberg.

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