How ESG Programs Can Help the Unemployed

Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, believes we need universal basic income (UBI) to mitigate the effects of AI-driven unemployment. The question is whether this is something your organization should be supporting as part of its environmental, social, and governance (ESG) efforts. 
Economic disruptions of any kind create the risk of widescale and long-term unemployment, and you don’t need to believe in an AI-driven job apocalypse to see the social value of helping the unemployed. However, there is something better to focus on rather than promoting UBI — it’s promoting the long-term wellbeing of people on such programs. 
Proponents of UBI often suggest that, once people are freed of the need to earn a living, they will engage in meaningful creative pursuits such as writing an opera. Some will, but it’s naïve to think that most people are so self-motivated. People need programs that will support them in finding meaningful activities, and it is this kind of initiative that your ESG program could fund. 
There’s no need to invent such programs from scratch. Groups like the Scouts and Toastmasters have experience in organizing programs that bring meaning into people’s lives. These programs can also be supported at any scale and can be launched right away. There are already retirees and long-term unemployed who could use help injecting meaningful activities into their lives. 
There is, unfortunately, a more difficult issue around UBI. Historian Yuval Noah Harari has warned about the coming of the “Useless Class.” These are the long-term unemployed whom society sees as being useless. Even if these people are quite happy in their own pursuits, if they are seen as useless by society, then support for UBI will dry up. People who still work long hours in difficult jobs won’t be pleased seeing groups of people supported by tax-payer dollars frolicking in the park. 
In today’s world, it’s easy to find activities people can do that earn respect as well as feel meaningful. A program could have the unemployed acting as volunteers in hospitals, doing neighborhood beautification projects, or providing assistance to people with disabilities. Perhaps, we will end up in a world where robots can do these jobs better than people, but if we start now on supporting programs that earn respect, as well as meaning, then we can evolve them to match changing social conditions. 
The tech elite love the idea of UBI — but handing out money is the easy part. The harder part is evolving programs that deliver meaning and respect, so that no one ends up being seen as part of a useless class. Supporting such programs is something your ESG program can do right now, and it could build a foundation for a society that proves very important in the potentially turbulent years ahead.