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AI, climate change and gender inequality: how can a Universal Basic Income promote positive change?

By Adrienne Goehler

If we had unrestricted basis income for everyone, what would the consequences be? Would it increase freedom and equality and so dim down the ever faster accelerating times? Would it help to save the environment with its restricted resources?

As a feminist I have always found the wage differences unbearable and I am tired of hoping for "equal pay.” As a feminist, I am concerned that the "World Economic Forum" and many studies suggest that artificial intelligence will massively destroy jobs, especially for women, in the coming years.

Governmental policies around the world continue to ignore these prognoses to this day, this makes the development a threat.  With a Basic Income this could mean a liberation from work, gain of time and participation in the ecological transformation. 

As a psychologist, I have been observing what it means that liquid modernity, as Hannah Arendt fellow Zygmunt Bauman describes the present, no longer gives away any traditional places in society. This goes hand in hand with chronic existential fear, which hinders a creative approach to one's own life. Psychology also sharpens the view that fundamentalisms can flourish where the (social) foundations are lacking. This is one of the significant reasons for the rise of right-wing radicalism worldwide.

As a founding member of the Green Party in Germany, I have been working for decades on sustainable transformation, even after I left the Green Party, and I cannot understand how little - in the scientific community and in movements alike - the fact is being discussed how much poverty prevents participation in this transformation.

As a curator, I have a profound knowledge of the precarious lives of freelance artists and see how  poverty prevents artistic research from becoming part of the necessary transformation. As a curator, I also see that the artists have a head start in the experience of thinking in projects and constantly having to reinvent themselves, which is now the case for large parts of society.

As a citizen of my time, I share the experience of sitting in a hamster wheel , believing that I have to be available 24/7, and I can bear this acceleration and self-optimization less and less. Time matters!  That is why time researcher Barbara Adams says that we need the "time print" as well as the "carbon footprint".

Finally, with all facets of my existence I cannot stand silo thinking in science, politics and art, because I see a benefit for individuals and society alike only in mutual permeability. Everything else is a gigantic waste of human resources.

That is why I cannot bear the fact that the basic income movement is not yet seriously linked to the feminist and sustainability movements. So I spent two years in science, art, economics, even with a nun, even with a banker, and asked her about the connections between sustainability / deceleration and basic income.

We should use the direct experiences in this pandemic time for a rather radical restructuring of society, where a basic income/livelihood allows us to ask ourselves what we want, could support economies - the algorithms provide us with gainful employment, which frees us to work - to work on things that will allow us a dignified existence on the planet. 

With a worldwide basic income/livelihood we come closer to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and, 231 years after the French Revolution, women finally reached a point where they could have the same economic opportunities as men.

I believe that we need to break out of frozen patterns of thinking and acting. Establishing a basic income is a step in the right direction. 

About the author:

*Adrienne Goehler is Associate Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies in Potsdam, Germany. She has recently launched a book on the topic on deceleration, sustainability and basic income, which will soon be partially translated into English.

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