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San Francisco talks robot tax

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A Black Friday shopper navigates Pepper, a robotic concierge stationed at Westfield Mall in San Francisco, Calif. Friday, November 25, 2016. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Following the recent advice of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Supervisor Jane Kim called for a hearing Tuesday on imposing a tax on robots and automation.

“We are finding that robots have begun to destroy millions of American jobs. The long predicted era of robots and automation replacing human workers has arrived,” Kim said. “We need to ensure that the massive new wealth created by automation is redirected to investing in education and training displaced workers for the jobs of the future.”

The hearing would examine “an ongoing tax on every machine that replaces a human,” Kim said. Kim also said she plans to convene a working group.

In a Quartz Media interview last month with Gates, the Microsoft founder argued for a robot tax.

“So if you can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces, and financially and training-wise and fulfillment-wise have that person go off and do these other things, then you’re net ahead,” Gates said in the interview. “But you can’t just give up that income tax, because that’s part of how you’ve been funding that level of human workers.”

Kim said that it was important for The City to get ahead on the issue. “We want to make sure that as we talk about this growing income and wealth gap that we are not only taking on the issues we are seeing today but that we are taking head on issues that are coming in the very near future,” Kim said.

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