With an impending robot revolution expected to leave a trail of unemployment, some Silicon Valley tech leaders think they have a remedy to a future with fewer jobs: free money for all.
Its called universal basic income, a radical concept that would provide all Americans with a minimum level of economic security. The idea is expensive and controversial it guarantees cash for everyone, regardless of income level or employment status. But prominent tech leaders including Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Sam Altman, president of startup accelerator Y Combinator, support it.
We should make it so no one is worried about how theyre going to pay for a place to live, no one has to worry about how theyre going to have enough to eat, Altman said in a recent speech in San Francisco. Just give people enough money to have a reasonable quality of life.
Altman is funding a basic income experiment in Oakland, Calif., as the concept gains momentum in the San Francisco Bay Area. Policy experts, economists, tech leaders and others convened in San Francisco last month for a workshop on the topic organized by the Economic Security Project, of which Altman is a founding signatory. The project is investing $10 million in basic income projects over the next two years.
Stanford University has created a Basic Income Lab to study the idea, and the San Francisco city treasurers office has said its designing tests though the department said it has no updates on the status of that project.
Proponents say the utopian approach could offer relief to workers in Silicon Valley and beyond who may soon find their jobs threatened by robots as they get smarter. Even before the robots take over, some economists say, basic income should be used as a tool to fight poverty. In the Bay Area where the rapid expansion of high-paying tech companies has made the region too expensive for many to afford it could help lift those the boom has left behind.
Unlike traditional aid programs, recipients of a universal basic income wouldnt need to prove anything not their income level, employment status, disability or family obligations before collecting their cash payments.
Its a right of citizenship, said Karl Widerquist, a basic income expert and associate professor at Georgetown Universitys School of Foreign Service in Qatar, so were not judging people and were not putting them in this other category or (saying) youre the poor. And I think this is exciting people right now because the other model hasnt worked.
That means a mother living at the poverty line would get the same amount of free cash as Mark Zuckerberg, Widerquist said. But Zuckerbergs taxes would go up, canceling out his basic income payment.
The problem is that giving all Americans a $10,000 annual income would cost upwards of $3 trillion a year more than three-fourths of the federal budget, said Bob Greenstein, president of the Washington-based Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. Some proponents advocate paying for it by cutting programs like food stamps and Medicaid. But that approach would take money set aside for low-income families and redistribute it upward, exacerbating poverty and inequality, Greenstein said.
Still, some researchers are testing the idea with small basic income experiments targeting certain neighborhoods and socio-economic groups.
Y Combinator the accelerator known for launching Airbnb and Instacart is giving 100 randomly selected Oakland families unconditional cash payments of about $1,500 a month. Altman, who is footing most of the bill himself, says society needs to consider basic income to support Americans who lose their jobs to robots and artificial intelligence. The idea, he said in his San Francisco speech, addresses the question not enough people are asking: What do we as the tech industry do to solve the problem that were helping to create?
Increased use of robots and AI will lead to a net loss of 9.8 million jobs by 2027 7 percent of U.S. positions, according to a study that the Forrester research firm released last month. Already, the signs are everywhere. Autonomous cars and trucks threaten driving jobs, automated factories require fewer human workers, and artificial intelligence is taking over aspects of legal work and other white-collar jobs.
Proponents of universal basic income have varying ideas of how much money people should get to give them a decent quality of life. Clearly $1,500 a month isnt enough in the Bay Area, but Altman says in a world of robots the cost of living would go down some experts predict that automation would lower production costs. In the meantime, an extra $1,500 still could have a big effect on Oakland residents like Shoshanna Howard, who said the salary she makes working at a nonprofit barely covers her cost of living.
I would pay off my student loans, she said. And I would put whatever I could toward savings, because Im currently not able to save for my future.
Interest in basic income rose in the 1960s and 1970s, when small pilot studies were conducted in states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Iowa and Indiana, and in Canada. Some studies showed improvements in participants physical and mental health, and found children performed better in school or stayed in school longer. But some also showed that people receiving a basic income were inclined to spend fewer hours working. Other data suggested that married participants were more likely to get divorced. Some experts say the cash payments reduced womens financial dependence on their husbands.
Y Combinator plans to expand its experiment to 1,000 families. YC researchers are using the small Oakland pilot to answer logistical questions such as how to select participants, and how to pay them. The researchers have said theyre focusing on residents ages 21 through 40 whose household income doesnt exceed the area median about $55,000 in Oakland, according to the latest Census data. They expect to release plans for a larger study this summer.
Y Combinator announced its Oakland project last spring, but since then has kept many details under wraps. That tight-lipped approach concerns some community members who question whether the group did enough to involve Oakland residents and nonprofits.
Jennifer Lin, deputy director of the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy, said her organization reached out to YC about a year ago, but never heard back. It makes me question what Y Combinator has to hide, she said.
Elizabeth Rhodes, YCs basic income research director, said the group is working with city, county and state officials, and has met with local nonprofits and social service providers.
We want to be as transparent as we can, but protecting the privacy and well-being of study participants is our first priority, she wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., is pushing for a plan that has been described as a first step toward universal basic income. Khanna this summer plans to propose long shot $1 trillion expansion to the earned income tax credit that is already available to low-income families. But unlike a basic income, that money would go only to people who work.
Theres a dignity to work, Khanna said. People, they dont want a handout. They want to contribute to the economy.
- Universal Basic Income: Andrew Yang Was Pushing for It Long Before Coronavirus Pandemic - PopCulture.com - May 9th, 2020
- Coronavirus is a crisis for the developing world, but here's why it needn't be a catastrophe - The Guardian - May 9th, 2020
- Starvation in the time of Corona: momentum for the Universal Basic Dividend - DiEM25 - May 9th, 2020
- Adam Schiff Says Trump's Cult of the President Has Infected the Republican Party - Mother Jones - May 9th, 2020
- Common Arguments Against Basic Income Don't apply to the Emergency BI - Basic Income News - March 31st, 2020
- How a Basic Income And Jobs Guarantee Can Save The Economy From Coronavirus - The National Interest - March 31st, 2020
- I've lived through plenty of social shocks this time we must learn the lessons - The Guardian - March 31st, 2020
- Coronavirus: Iain Duncan Smith says dont bring in universal basic income during pandemic as it would be disincentive to work - The Independent - March 26th, 2020
- Solidarity Economicsfor the Coronavirus Crisis and Beyond - The American Prospect - March 26th, 2020
- We face a war against coronavirus and must mobilise accordingly | Free to read - Financial Times - March 26th, 2020
- Lockdown to fight coronavirus is going to hit most Indian workers very hard - Livemint - March 26th, 2020
- Beware of a lopsided lockdown - The Hindu - March 26th, 2020
- Life, Liberty, and Basic Income | Opinion - Harvard Crimson - February 29th, 2020
- Find ways to improve the revenue of farmers: Congress - The Hindu - January 30th, 2020
- Eliminating Child Poverty With a Government Check - The New York Times - January 30th, 2020
- Andrew Yang Expects 'Many' of His Supporters to Back Sanders in Iowa: We 'Have a Lot of Overlap' - Newsweek - January 30th, 2020
- Trump to let states overhaul Medicaid for the poor, seeking to change Obamacare without legislation - Washington Examiner - January 30th, 2020
- P.E.I. groups say basic Income should not replace addictions, other supports - The Journal Pioneer - January 27th, 2020
- 5 Psychological Forces That Turn People into Political Hacks | Aaron Pomerantz - Foundation for Economic Education - January 13th, 2020
- WAYNE YOUNG: Island voices must be heard - The Guardian - December 15th, 2019
- The Guardian view on Finlands new PM: a different type of leadership - The Guardian - December 15th, 2019
- Basic Income as 40 Acres and a Mule - Basic Income News - October 16th, 2019
- 'Most Americans Don't Want To Work for the Federal Government' Says Andrew Yang, Trashing Federal Jobs Guarantee - Reason - October 16th, 2019
- Democratic debate highlights: best and most substantive answers of the night - Vox.com - October 16th, 2019
- Sanders: 'Damn right we will' have a job for every American | TheHill - The Hill - October 16th, 2019
- Assembly Elections 2019: Why is the Congress evasive about NYAY scheme this poll season? - Moneycontrol.com - October 16th, 2019
- Letter to the Editor: Universal basic income is inevitable as we head toward a fully automated society - The Post - October 16th, 2019
- Democrats focus on some Midwestern issues at Westerville debate, a departure from past three forums - cleveland.com - October 16th, 2019
- New book reviews the Namibian Basic Income pilot - Basic Income News - October 1st, 2019
- Quick notes from Basic Income Guarantee Panel - falicon.com - January 28th, 2019
- 'Hartz reforms': how a benefits shakeup changed Germany ... - January 28th, 2019
- Basic income could end food insecurity - Upstream - January 3rd, 2019
- Basic Income Canada Network - November 17th, 2018
- Basic Income Guarantee - Your Right to Economic Security ... - November 8th, 2018
- The Ethics and Economics of the Basic Income Guarantee ... - September 18th, 2018
- Is a Basic Income Guarantee the Right Choice for Ontario? - June 27th, 2018
- Basic Income Now | It's time for dignity for all - March 17th, 2018
- 'Me too' and the basic income guarantee | Basic Income News - February 6th, 2018
- Food shopping at dollar stores | Brantford Expositor - Brantford Expositor - August 24th, 2017
- How Cities Can Rebuild the Social Safety Net - CityLab - August 24th, 2017
- After lifting minimum wage, NDP government prepares to consult public about reducing poverty - Straight.com - August 16th, 2017
- Universal Basic Infrastructure to help decrease India's poverty - Economic Times - August 14th, 2017
- New Zealand Fabians host Basic Income panel - Basic Income News - August 13th, 2017
- Hashtag Trending Battery-free phone, Apple's China backlash - IT World Canada - August 10th, 2017
- Universal basic income proponent to speak in Boise - Idaho Press-Tribune - August 7th, 2017
- Let's talk about a supplemental income - The Hindu - August 7th, 2017
- Is a Well-Paying Job the next Entitlement Program? - Big Think (blog) - August 5th, 2017
- DON PRIDMORE: Be careful what you wish for... - The Guardian - August 1st, 2017
- EDITORIAL: Island needs dollars, not data, to cope with poverty - The Guardian - July 29th, 2017
- Renfrew County dietitian recognized by board of health for provincial award - www.insideottawavalley.com/ - July 27th, 2017
- More Calgarians struggle to feed their families over the summer months - CBC.ca - July 26th, 2017
- NEW ORLEANS, LA, US: Local basic income group begins to hold monthly meetings - Basic Income News - July 25th, 2017
- Value in using tax system for basic income: Report - The Sudbury Star - July 21st, 2017
- Does Basic Income Solve Anything? Grasp the Arguments for and ... - Futurism - July 21st, 2017
- NDP leadership candidate visits Guelph (8 photos) - GuelphToday - July 18th, 2017
- UBI is just a bedtime story Elon Musk tells himself to help the super-wealthy sleep - Quartz - July 14th, 2017
- Basic Income Guarantee program moving forward for 2000 Lindsay residents - Kawartha Media Group - July 8th, 2017
- Net incomes under a Basic Income system - Basic Income News - July 1st, 2017
- Should all Americans receive a guaranteed income? - KHOU - June 24th, 2017
- Should all Americans receive a guaranteed income? - 9NEWS.com - June 21st, 2017
- Should all Americans receive a guaranteed income? - KPNX 12 News TV - June 21st, 2017
- Should all Americans receive a guaranteed income? - First Coast News - June 20th, 2017
- Study of Iran's basic income shows it did not harm employment - Basic Income News - June 7th, 2017
- Basic income plan doable: Northern study - The Sudbury Star - June 6th, 2017
- About That Universal Basic Income Idea - FITSNews - June 6th, 2017
- Letters: Guaranteed income guarantees sloth - The Province - June 6th, 2017
- Basic-income guarantee is way to end poverty - Times Colonist - March 11th, 2017
- Basic Income in Argentine News - Basic Income News - March 10th, 2017
- Industry body bats for universal basic income for women - Times of India - March 8th, 2017
- A guaranteed income isn't the solution to widespread unemployment - Acton Institute (blog) - March 1st, 2017
- Australia Needs A Universal Basic Income, And We Should Start ... - Huffington Post Australia - February 24th, 2017
- VIDEO: Basic Income presentation at Meeting of the Minds Summit - Basic Income News - February 22nd, 2017
- Ben Wray: Why both the right to work and the right not to work can set us free - CommonSpace - February 20th, 2017
- Expert: We Can Have Universal Basic Income and Jobs - Futurism - Futurism - February 18th, 2017
- World Economic Forum blog: Canada's basic income experiment will it work? - Basic Income News - February 16th, 2017
- Guaranteed basic income proposed. - Bayshore Broadcasting News Centre - February 15th, 2017
- Left-Wing America Steps Up Calls For Free Money, Jobs Guarantee - Daily Caller - February 10th, 2017
- OPINION: Human rights, basic needs - The Guardian - February 10th, 2017
- Ebay founder backs universal basic income test with $500000 pledge - Mashable - February 9th, 2017
- A response to 'The dangers of a basic income' - Basic Income News - February 7th, 2017