The “Robot Taxation” debate carries on

Robotics

As breakthroughs in the fields of automation and robotics become more common, so do debates into the realities of a changing workflow. The topic of taxation of robots — specifically the taxation of firms that utilize robots for automaton purposes — is one such example of these ongoing discussions, though one without a clear solution.

Last month, Bill Gates spoke to Quartz on the subject of robot taxation, stating “right now, if a human worker does $50,000 worth of work in a factory, that income is taxed. If a robot comes in to do the same thing, you’d think we’d tax the robot at a similar level. You cross the threshold of job-replacement of certain activities all sort of at once. So, you know, warehouse work, driving, room cleanup, there’s quite a few things that are meaningful job categories that, certainly in the next 20 years, being thoughtful about that extra supply is a net benefit. It’s important to have the policies to go with that.” This opinion, however, met its share of criticism; similarly a proposed measure in Europe to tax corporations that utilize robots was quickly shot down.

Robot taxation raises several hard to answer questions and difficulties. One such obstacle is the clarification of what constitutes a robot. Is a robot defined as a piece of software that automates a complex process? Is it a physical piece of automated technology? The nebulous nature of this definition creates an obstacle in the adoption of such a tax. Where is the line drawn?

A common argument made for taxation of robots is job loss — if a robot is doing the job a person could then that will result in a lost job. Though this is certainly true with any automated process, economists and other experts view the net-growth possibilities as a worthwhile investment. Economist James Bessen wrote in his response to Bill Gates’s interview “although automation will lead to further job losses in manufacturing, warehouse operations, and truck driving, the overall impact of automation across most industries will be to increase employment,” going on to compare the impact on productivity to the introduction of the bar-code scanner or ATM.

Further complicating the discussion of robot taxation is that many view it as a superficial solution to a complex problem. Robots and automated processes are not going away, after all. To this end many sides of the discussion would prefer a long-term solution to the changing workforce, such as the adoption of a universal income in order to adequately prepare for a future with growing number of automated processes.

The debate of robot taxation currently has no clear answer and will undoubtedly carry on in the near-future. One thing is clear: automated processes are not going anywhere, be they robotic manufacturing assembly or self-driving automobiles. What solutions and measures are adopted with them, however, remain to be seen.

Sources:

Quartz

Forbes

The Guardian

Fortune

 

The world’s tallest CLT building will soon be overshadowed.

“Steel was the 1800s materials, concrete 1900s. Now we are in the 2000s and it is time for timber.” – Susanne Rudemstan, head of the Swedish Wood Building Council

“The Tree,” the aptly named 173-foot wooden Norwegian apartment block leads the way as timber buildings —or “plyscrapers” as they are affectionately called— grow in popularity the world over. It currently holds the title as the world’s tallest Timber Building,— but it may not hold it for much longer.

Come May 2017, the University of British Columbia will finish Brock Commons student residence, 17-story tall and the soon-to-be tallest wooden construction in the world.  Of course, who knows how long that title will hold? With such proposed constructions as the 80-story timber tower to be built on Chicago’s waterfront, the very next contender may be coming sooner than we think.

Tallwood-Design-Institute-Logo (1)

Just this month, Oregon State University announced the TallWood Design Institute, structured around the advancement of wood constructions and the research, education, and teaching towards the development of wooden buildings. Thomas Maness, dean of the College of Forestry, describes the institute: “Oregon’s forest products industry and sustainable design profession are recognized for their products and progressive leadership internationally. The TallWood Design Institute works to link these two together in order to grow and leverage the use of new wood products in sustainable building design.”  As institutes like the TallWood Design Institute grow in number along with initiatives like the Timber Innovation Act, we can expect a bright future for the “plyscraper.”

Sources:

Daily Mail

World’s tallest wood building completed at UBC

Woodworking Network

Construction Dive

2017 sees growing number of CLT-based classrooms

Photo Source Yakima Herald

Photo Source Yakima Herald

Adams Elementary School of Wapato, Washington will soon have its first Cross-Laminated Timber-based classrooms, thanks to a five-school-district initiative to use CLT in elementary school classrooms. Washington Department of Enterprise Services project manager Debra Delzell says “It’s a very up and coming product that is used in Europe and has been used there for over 20 years.”

She’s not wrong, CLT constructions are on the rise both in Europe and the United States. With such initiatives as the Timber Innovation Act, the United States may very well soon see more CLT constructions in the very near future. When considering the Benefits of Cross-Laminated Timber – such as reduced carbon footprint, heat insulation, faster construction, lower costs – it comes as little surprise that the state pushed for its use.

Another school undergoing a Cross-Laminated Timber construction project is Jefferson Elementary of the Mount Vernon school district. The four-classroom building is part of an ongoing initiative to lower the number of students per classroom. Thanks to the quick construction time of CLT projects, these classrooms are expected to be sitting students in the 2017/2018 school years.

Affordable, environmentally friendly, and quick to produce; as more institutions embrace this innovative building material, we expect to see more CLT constructions in educational institutions like Adams Elementary in the very near future.

Sources:

GoSkagit

ForestBusinessNetwork

KimaTV

YakimaHerald