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Friday, January 29, 2016

On That Universal Basic Income??

The futurists and visionaries out in Silicon Valley who see the future coming, seem to agree with me on the need for a universal basic income one day not too far away.

Hint: It's about robots

And keep in mind, this is coming from the very vaulted private sector, too.

A bit from the article:

Basic income is having a moment. First Finland announced it would launch an ambitious experiment to see if it would work to give everyone in a given area is given a set amount of cash every year from the government, no strings attached. Now the Silicon Valley seed investment firm Y Combinator has announced it wants to fund a basic income experiment in the US.

YC's president, Sam Altman, announced on the YC blog that the company wants to hire a researcher to "work full-time on this project for 5 years," and supervise an experiment wherein Y Combinator will "give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period, though we’re flexible on that and all aspects of the project."

Y Combinator — a startup incubator that counts Dropbox, Airbnb, and Reddit among its alumni — seems mostly interested in basic income as a response to technological unemployment. In the future, the reasoning goes, enough work will be automated that demand for all but the highest skilled labor will collapse, leaving a small group of programmers and capitalists with all the coconuts and most people with nothing.

I'm skeptical this is ever going to happen (Matt Yglesias makes a good case against the hypothesis here), but basic income is one way to make sure everyone survives structural employment changes in the future.

"I’m fairly confident that at some point in the future, as technology continues to eliminate traditional jobs and massive new wealth gets created, we’re going to see some version of [a basic income] at a national scale," Altman writes.

As for me, I, too am skeptical. I'm skeptical humans would be so smart---or fair and just---to set up such a system.

But there's always hope.

Note:  The article is a fascinating one, telling about different past and current attempts and experiments at what does and does not work with this and the possible ramifications. To me, it's well worth the read.

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