Creativity has always served as the bedrock of human evolution, serving as our guiding star from the dawn of time—first manifesting as primitive cave paintings, and now, in the modern era, as architectural wonders, literary masterpieces, and groundbreaking technological advancements. This unique human ability to create is not merely an act of survival or a pursuit of material gain, but rather, an intimate expression of our emotions and intellect, born out of a deep-seated passion. The life of masters like Van Gogh serves as a testament to this truth. Their timeless creations were not fueled by the allure of financial gain, but by an insatiable inner drive—a haunting compulsion to pour their souls onto canvas.
As we journey into the present, we find ourselves in a world where technology has grown leaps and bounds. Large Language Models (LLMs) like GPT-3/4 are now capable of generating creative outputs that would have once been the sole domain of human intellect. Advanced AI programs, such as Midjourney, are capable of crafting compelling stories, rendering intricate paintings, composing harmonious music, and even directing visually captivating movies. This surge in AI-driven creativity invites us to rethink our relationship with work, creativity, and the economic structure that underpins it all.
In the dawning era of AI and machine learning, we must ponder the possibilities of an economic shift—one where work is pursued for the love of the craft, driven by the thrill of innovation, rather than the necessity of basic survival. It’s time to explore the potential of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) and a Robot Tax, to support this transition towards a more creatively fulfilling future. Join us as we delve into this intriguing paradigm shift, and envision the future of creativity in the era of AI.
The Spirit of True Creativity
Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most celebrated artists in the history of Western art, perfectly encapsulates the spirit of true creativity1. Despite producing over 2,000 artworks in just over a decade, Van Gogh sold only one painting during his lifetime and lived in abject poverty. His work was not driven by the pursuit of wealth, but by a relentless inner drive to express his perception of the world around him.
Van Gogh once said, “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart”2. His life stands testament to the fact that true creativity often flourishes not because of external rewards, but in spite of them.
Similarly, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most influential composers in the history of Western classical music, remained financially unstable throughout his life. His prolific output—over 800 works—was not fueled by financial gain but by his inherent love for music and his desire to push the boundaries of composition.
Pablo Picasso, another titan of the art world, echoes this sentiment of artistic passion overriding material success. Despite facing criticism and poverty in his early years, Picasso continued to create, driven by his desire to innovate and reshape the artistic landscape. His groundbreaking work in establishing the Cubist movement came not from a desire for wealth, but from an intrinsic drive to revolutionize art3.
These masters of creativity—Van Gogh, Mozart, and Picasso—demonstrate that true creativity thrives not on external validation, but on the relentless pursuit of personal expression and innovation. Their enduring legacies remind us that the most profound creative work often emerges from a deep inner drive, transcending the limitations of material success.
AI and Creativity: A New Era
We now stand on the precipice of a new epoch in creativity, where Artificial Intelligence (AI) has begun to mimic the nuances of human ingenuity. Take, for instance, OpenAI’s GPT-3, a model capable of producing text that remarkably mirrors the human style – be it in the realm of poetic expression or technical discourse. In a similar vein, Midjourney, another AI innovation, has expanded the boundaries of creative possibilities, enabling the creation of art, composition of music, writing of stories, and even the production of films.
Nevertheless, while these AI models exhibit a spectrum of creative capabilities, they inherently lack the personal conviction, the depth of emotion, and the rich tapestry of unique experiences that serve as the lifeblood of human creativity. Their creations, as impressive as they may be, are born out of programmed logic, not inspired by the mesmerising hues of a sunset, stirred by a soul-stirring symphony, or haunted by a narrative steeped in profundity. They function devoid of the human touch – the visceral emotional drive that fuels creativity and engenders art that resonates with the human spirit.
A Case for Universal Basic Income and Robot Tax
As we navigate the advancing tide of Artificial Intelligence and its potential to automate tasks traditionally performed by humans, it becomes paramount to reassess our prevailing economic structure. The question that looms large is: If machines and algorithms can replicate human work, how do people continue to earn their livelihoods? More crucially, how do we construct a system that empowers people to follow their passions, freed from the burden of meeting their basic survival needs?
This discourse brings to the fore the concepts of Universal Basic Income (UBI) and a Robot Tax. UBI proposes a periodic, unconditional payment disbursed to all citizens, ensuring they possess the means to meet their fundamental needs. On the other hand, a Robot Tax implies levying a tax on businesses that employ robots or AI to substitute human workers. The revenue accrued from this tax could potentially finance UBI programs.
UBI can potentially catalyze a transformative shift in our society, affording individuals the freedom to pursue their passions and hone their skills, unencumbered by the immediate commercial value of these pursuits. This could herald a resurgence of creativity on a scale reminiscent of the Renaissance, an era marked by a flourishing of art, science, and philosophy, buoyed by patrons who offered financial support to artists and thinkers.
Here are some arguments favoring the implementation of UBI and a Robot Tax:
- Poverty Alleviation and Improved Health: UBI has demonstrated its potential to significantly reduce poverty and income inequality and enhance physical and mental health. Trials in various countries have shown that a well-implemented UBI can eradicate poverty, improve health by enabling access to medical care, and reduce stress and anxiety levels4.
- Positive Job Growth and Reduced School Dropout Rates: UBI could counter the effects of sluggish wage growth, low wages, and lack of job security caused by the gig economy and workplace automation. It can stimulate economic growth, offer employees financial security, and encourage education and skill development. Trials have revealed that UBI recipients tend to stay in school longer, leading to lower dropout rates and increased participation in skill training programs5.
- Empowerment of Unpaid Roles, Especially for Women: UBI recognises and offers income for traditionally unpaid roles such as childcare and eldercare, thereby empowering women. It provides financial security and independence, reducing gender-based inequality and fostering women’s empowerment6.
- Robot Tax to Fund UBI: As businesses increasingly adopt automation, a Robot Tax could provide a viable means to fund UBI. It shifts part of the tax burden to businesses profiting from automation, ensuring that the benefits of technological advancements are more equitably distributed across society.
In summary, UBI and a Robot Tax could pave the way for a more inclusive and creative society, where individuals are not defined by their economic output, but by their creative and intellectual contributions.
In conclusion, the emergence of advanced AI and Large Language Models, capable of imitating human creativity, signals a pivotal juncture in our evolution. While these technological marvels open up an array of possibilities, they also prompt us to reassess the fundamental tenets of our economic structure and our relationship with work.
The concept of creativity, as embodied by great masters like Van Gogh, Picasso, and Mozart, is not merely about producing output; it’s about the human spirit, the emotional depth, and the unique experiences that fuel our desire to create. These elements are currently beyond the realm of AI, reinforcing the intrinsic value of human creativity that goes beyond commercial considerations.
As we navigate this new era, it is incumbent upon us to revisit how we value work and creativity. Concepts like Universal Basic Income and Robot Tax offer potential pathways to redefine our economy, allowing us to focus on what we genuinely excel at and are passionate about, rather than merely striving to meet our basic needs.
Such a shift could herald a renaissance in human creativity, liberating us from the constraints of economic necessity, and allowing the human spirit to flourish in ways we can only begin to imagine. In this brave new world, the ultimate measure of our success could be not just our economic productivity, but the depth, diversity, and richness of our creative contributions to society.
We stand on the cusp of a transformative era, and our choices today will shape the future of creativity, work, and human potential. Let us strive to create a world where each individual can truly echo the sentiment expressed by Van Gogh: “I am seeking. I am striving. I am in it with all my heart.“