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Philanthropist Bill Gates suggested recently that robots taking over human jobs, which currently happens particularly in manufacturing automation, should have to pay income tax.

Though taxing robots is not a new idea, Gates told Quartz that taxing robots could slow down the displacement of humans. More importantly, however, he also suggested that the taxation funds and the freed-up human labor could be used to improve other services, especially those in which empathy is key.

“Let us do a better job,” says Gates, “of reaching out to the elderly, having smaller class size, helping kids with special needs. We still deal with an immense shortage of people to help out there. So, if you can take the labor that used to do the thing automation replaces, and both financially and training-wise and fulfillment-wise, have that person go off and do these other things, you’re net ahead.”

There could be many ways to go about it – extra productivity tax, profits from labor-saving efficiency, robot income tax. Gates would like to see the transition happen slowly in order to study the impact on communities and for discussions to take place on how best to transition and on developing good policies.

“It is really bad if people overall have more fear about what innovation is going to do than they have enthusiasm,” says Gates. “That means they won’t shape it for the positive things it can do.”

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