Thursday, June 23, 2016

You Can’t Make This Stuff Up Dept.

Really, you can’t:
     Europe’s war against the tech age may be entering a new phase, as draft legislation has been introduced to decree that robots must be treated as human workers—and taxed as such. Reuters reports:
     Europe’s growing army of robot workers could be classed as “electronic persons” and their owners liable to paying social security for them if the European Union adopts a draft plan to address the realities of a new industrial revolution.[..]

     Their growing intelligence, pervasiveness and autonomy requires rethinking everything from taxation to legal liability, a draft European Parliament motion, dated May 31, suggests.

     The draft motion called on the European Commission to consider “that at least the most sophisticated autonomous robots could be established as having the status of electronic persons with specific rights and obligations”

     This is nonsense on mile-high stilts. These fabricated, purposed devices are property ab initio of those who make and buy them. Alfred Bester’s classic story notwithstanding, our machines aren’t independent entities with the capacity for autonomous action. My own speculations in that direction are likely never to be realized. The reasons are too involute for a short essay.

     But the masters of the European Union aren’t concerned with reality. They’re focused on revenue and the suppression of machine competition for human laborers. The “structural” unemployment problem the nations of Europe endure, itself entirely a creation of law, is worsened by the proliferation of “smart” manufacturing robots.

     Robots don’t strike for higher pay.
     They don’t take vacations or sick leave.
     Robots can work much longer shifts than men.
     They don’t mind doing the same thing over and over.
     And the “doctors” that tend their hurts don’t require medical degrees.

     Thus, as human workers become ever more strident about working conditions, noncash benefits, “living wages,” and the like, robots acquire a competitive edge...and the politicians see a corresponding diminution in their power to tax and regulate.

     Much as it is here, the resistance to increased tax rates has reached a point near to immobility. While Europeans aren’t as likely as Americans to “take the musket down from the mantel,” they have their own means of resisting arbitrary assertions of power, some of which are both innovative and effective. However, Europeans are generally friendlier than Americans to widening the population taxed...and if to spare European workers and their families any further increases in their tax burdens, that population must embrace nonsense by enfolding nonpersons, then so be it.

     Britain appears to be heading for the exit door. If it secedes from the EU, other nations are likely to follow it – and proposals such as this one will accelerate and intensify the tide.

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