Does the World Need a Universal Basic Income? Could Steem Power It?

last year

Technological Unemployment Is Coming

By some reports, 40%-60% of all the jobs in existence today will be gone in a few short decades. Historically, our species has responded fairly well to massive shifts in employment (you're probably not a farmer, am-I-right?). No one's crying for the buggy whip makers because Ford didn't give us a faster horse.

But This Time, It's Different

At least, that's what some very smart people are saying. I've watched and read a lot of content on the morality of artificial intelligence (see my Steemit post for details), and I'm surprised how regularly these discussions mention the need for a basic income. Given the fundamental changes represented by automation and super-intelligence, how will humans compete to provide value to one another?

Google has almost 8.5 million search results for "Universal Basic Income"

More and more people are talking about how the current welfare system is not only broken, but completely incapable of meeting the coming needs of society, given massive technological unemployment. There are Facebook groups like Basic Income America or The Technological Unemployment Community which I've joined to discuss these challenges and most of them are still thinking in terms of bureaucratic, government solutions (which, to me, goes against my understanding of morality due to the coercive funding mechanism we call taxation).

This is Where Steem Comes In

I wrestle with the ideas behind a Universal Basic Income (UBI) because I'm a hard working business owner who believes in market forces and the benefits to human well-being they can provide. I'm incredulous at the idea of just giving away money to people for no reason. At the same time, I've done enough study to realize what's potentially just over the horizon. Automation is coming. Exponential growth can't go on for ever, especially if few have jobs to make the money needed to buy the stuff being produced.

When I first learned about Bitcoin in 2013, I started thinking about what the true nature of money is. From there, I started wondering if a blockchain solution could provide value for anyone and everyone, essentially eliminating poverty. It sounded crazy until I saw Steemit. This little microcosm of a few thousand people from the around the world created $200M+ in value in a matter of days. That not only blew my mind, but it reignited my passion for using the blockchain to solve world poverty.

What if the future isn't a dystopia, but one where work becomes a four letter word, something we did in our more primitive days?

What if the solution we're looking for to the coming age of technological unemployment is being birthed right now?

What if we could all live at the top of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs?

The future is what we make of it.


Luke Stokes
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Bookmarking for more reading later. I've been researching the idea of a UBI more lately and I stumbled across this place and STEEM. It will be interesting to see how we can apply the ideas of a block chain and crypto currency to a UBI.

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Also, though I might resteem your post, but there doesn't seem to be that option. Can you only resteem within the 7 day reward window?

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Glad you found it. :)

"From there, I started wondering if a blockchain solution could provide value for anyone and everyone, essentially eliminating poverty... it reignited my passion for using the blockchain to solve world poverty."

Inspired. Love it. :-)

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Thanks. :)

There are a couple of issues when it comes to crypto and UBI.

For starters UBI is a state run socialized program in its current form. The concept is designed around people paying taxes and reporting earnings. A UBI will require that we either apply it to the entire world (globalism) or that we apply it to a single sovereign state.

If we apply UBI to a single sovereign state then border control and immigration will have to be insanely strict otherwise you will see a massive influx of people who come just for the UBI. They can then send UBI earnings to other countries which would be economically unsustainable.

Now here are the things about crypto currency. The state cant control or tax crypto at all. I kind of predict that the IRS is going to go into REEEEEEEEE mode in the coming years because they are going to realize that they cant really be sure if people are paying their taxes anymore. Not only that but where will they draw the line? If I get a gun skin in CS:GO worth five grand should I be taxed for that? What is and isn't technically online gambling? Is buying an item on the WoW auction house a transfer of wealth? How can steem power be taxed? What about the other 400 to 500 other places that will give you alt coins in some way. Good fucking luck, the state is in for a shit show once they start to delve into this at all.

Crypto is already world wide because the internet is world wide. This means if you were to try and implement a UBI with crypto you would not even need to think about borders. The problem with a UBI provided for by crypto is that it will be impossible to control it.

How do you solve the problem of one person getting multiple accounts? Right now the only one with the power to do this would be the government. But the government cant control the actual currency to reliably collect taxes. And if the government collects taxes then you have to have borders.

What about one giant global government? This has way too many problems unrelated to the topic.

So the verdict for a global UBI right now is, we have to solve ONE problem and it can be implemented right now. How, do you prevent one person from making multiple accounts without the governments help?

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Excellent points! This is why I think identity and privacy are important if we are going to figure this out. Maybe something based on a unique, validated genetic signature on the blockchain? Of course there will always be problems... someone might start cloning or growing humans in order to use their genetic signatures to defraud the blockchain, but much like BitShares, we could also allocate a portion of funds to pay for teams to take those people out. Witnesses could be voted in to ensure that money is being used properly.

I think borders are kind of archaic. I hope we soon move beyond them.

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I dont think privacy will be possible at all with social media and artificial intelligence. bio-metrics can be digitally replicated without having to do clone a person. Simply tamper with a scanner and input someone elses code.

If we cannot solve the problem of preventing people from making multiple accounts then we will be moving toward a state run fiat UBI which will mean ultra tight borders and insanely limited immigration.

But if we can solve this problem, global UBI can be done right now. In fact multiple entities can offer different UBI services at the same time with different rules and advantages.

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I agree, the current biometrics technologies make this quite difficult, but I wonder if we may have some workable solution in the future. Something beyond just an input device, but something more connected to the core of who we are that can't be replicated. If you like thinking about this stuff, you may enjoy Daniel Suarez's latest novel Change Agent. I love all his stuff and enjoyed this one as well.

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One method of proving identity we already see right now is following and subscribing. Building a following is essentially identical to distributed identity confirmation. Youtube used a similar method for doing this with its ad sense system. It then rewarded people for building larger and larger followings.

Ultimately, a UBI cannot function in such a meritocratic sense because it would be antithetical of what a UBI is supposed to be. But it may seriously by the only realistic solution.

We are going to have to blend social media into the system somehow as a means for people to confirm identities. A UBI will likely be a capitalistic endever in spite of its marxist roots.

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I mentioned a couple examples of identity online in the post I linked to above. Trust networks will be hugely important.

I posted a link to this article in the Facebook groups I mentioned and these two articles were recommend. Great reads for anyone interested in this discussion:

http://motherboard.vice.com/read/how-bitcoin-could-make-distributing-a-universal-basic-income-actually-possible

https://www.cryptocoinsnews.com/cryptocurrencies-bring-world-universal-basic-income/

I do believe as population grows or even remains where it is and many jobs go to automation that there could be less jobs for some people. Most of the jobs will tend to be in aspects of the mind we have no clue how to reproduce with computers. We can fake some of it but, these things usually have patterns and once humans become aware of the patterns they lose interest.

So there may be some people that do not adapt and find a niche they can contribute in. A place like steemit could potentially help with something like that if they participate. The key to any endeavor is participation.

A lot of the ideas people come up with arise from the concept of compassion. I believe voluntarily of your own free will assisting someone truly is compassionate. If you were forced to do it by a government or group then it has nothing to do with compassion since there was not a choice.

I am opposed to artificial raising of wages such as minimum wage, and thus it seems making a universal wage would be similar. I think it might work short term and then would become the same vicious cycle as minimum wage. There is no FREE. When you give a wage increase it is paid for in some way. Markets will adjust, and inflation will remain. It is my firm belief that in the short term these things FEEL great and are easy, but in the long term they do far more harm than good.

I was talking to someone the other day... consider this.

You are making $7.50 /hr and I am making $15.01/hr. I am living pretty good and getting by well. You are struggling.

Minimum wage is forced to $15/hr by the fed. You are now making $15/hr and I am still making $15.01/hr. Price and market adjustments will happen but for awhile you are living it up and feeling better than you ever have. In a year maybe two you start to feel that pinch again. Furthermore, I am right there with you. I am feeling the pinch too.

It is my belief that such actions give a temporary feeling of fixing something but that they actually erode from the underside of the middle class and grow the size of the lower class.

I could be wrong, but mathematically, and logically it makes sense to me. I don't really hear people discuss that, and the impact such actions have on the people that were just slightly above that minimum wage.

So why is this relevant.... a Universal Basic Income is essentially a minimum wage. Are you planning on giving the UBI to everyone, even those already making more than the UBI, or are you treating it as basically like a minimum wage that is paid to everyone regardless of whether they have a job or not?

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Hey @dwinblood, thanks for commenting!

If you were forced to do it by a government or group then it has nothing to do with compassion since there was not a choice.

I absolutely, whole-heartedly, 100% agree with you here.

I also agree a minimum wage backed by government decree is not the answer and only makes things worse (side note: Jefrey Tucker at PorcFest recently quoted from a very old economics textbook which basically described the minimum wage as a eugenics program. Sickening.)

a Universal Basic Income is essentially a minimum wage

Have you done some research on the concept to come to that conclusion or is that your initial understanding of it? I've come to understand it as a universal income, meaning everyone gets it regardless of their status, their job, etc. The idea that everyone needs to work in order to survive made sense before we started automating things to the point of exponentially increasing our productivity. From my perspective, much of the value humans create today is extracted by fractional reserve lending banksters and other crony activities designed by criminals in government. Value exists all around us, it's just being stollen.

Take a look at the Steem rich list. If they so desired and if the market cap of STEEM went into the 10's or 100's of billions of dollars, they could Vest STEEM into Steem Power for many, many people. In essence, that's what @dantheman, @ned and the founders of Steem do when they sign up new accounts. If the value was there, the power down nature of Steem could provide weekly payments of value to a lot of people. That, to me, is an amazing thing.

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I hadn't come to any conclusions on UBI which is why I asked if everyone got it regardless of whether they had a job or not. Mainly because my $7.50/hr vs $15.01/hr person example... if you had a UBI of $6/hr which people CAN survive on but they can't eat great and such... can probably even do less. I guarantee you welfare/food stamps pays way more than people actually need. Most groceries I've ever been able to buy for my family have been when I qualified for food stamps. We ate like kings in our opinion. :) I haven't qualified for a long time and spend less than half what food stamps gave me. So if the UBI is to make sure people can survive it would need to be realistic. So let's say it was $6/hr as a hypothetical... would that mean the person that was making $6/hr would get the $6/hr UBI + if they had a job their $7.50/hr and the other person would be getting $6/hr + $15.01/hr?

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I think it would change the labor market because employers would have to be more competitive when hiring (since not everyone had to work). There are a lot of valid concerns about inflation or even hyperinflation, but from my perspective, we'd already be seeing hyper inflation right now given the $8T+ which has been created out of nothing over the last 8 years or so. The reason we aren't, I think, is because of incredible productivity we have due to technology. We should probably be seeing $8T+ in deflation right now, but the FED just prints away (to the benefit of their bankster cronies who see the money first) which essentially steals from the rest of us.

If you want to know more, I'd recommend following those Facebook groups for a few months. They post a lot of really interesting articles from some very smart people on the topic. Inflation is a possibility, but there are also other offsets which might prevent that from happening.

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Reverse income tax; payable monthly. Everyone gets it unconditionally.

I don't have a paragraph to write but I know for a fact that universal income will eventually happen. I believe it will act like unemployment but if you want to earn more you will have to find that job or create your own business.

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All the proposals I've seen emphasize the basic nature of it, meaning people would just barely be able to survive. The key difference, to me, between welfare and UBI is that welfare, in it's current form, punishes people for trying to obtain extra income. A UBI, I think, could potentially free people up to do work they love that is the most meaningful to them and, potentially, more meaningful to society.

I'm not completely sold on it yet, but I do think it's a very interesting idea and, as you said, I think it's coming regardless of what I think about it.

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I heard it described as a reverse income tax; payable monthly.

I like the idea of Universal Basic Income as an interstice between capitalism and communism. My thoughts are fairly close to this Jacobin article from January.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/01/universal-basic-income-switzerland-finland-milton-friedman-kathi-weeks/

All of this, however, rests on one condition: that the level of basic income is high enough to eliminate the need to work for a wage. Otherwise, people would still be forced to labor under a boss, and most of the features that make it potentially emancipatory would disappear. A parsimonious basic income could even depress wages since workers would require less pay to subsist.

Considering the fundamentally different political implications, a basic income above and below the level of a livable income should be treated as different proposals. We could call them a livable basic income (LBI) and a non-livable basic income (NLBI).

Some specific proposals are mentioned...

The fundamental dilemma of a basic income is that the more achievable version — in which basic needs go unmet without supplementary paid employment — leaves out what makes it potentially emancipatory in the first place. Indeed, many commentaries cite basic income experiments to argue it does not significantly reduce work incentives.

This contradiction is directly tied to the fact that a basic income only addresses the question of distribution, while ignoring that of production. The kind of freedom from work — or freedom through work, which becomes “life’s prime want” — that an LBI envisions is, in all likelihood, not compatible with capitalism’s requirements of profitability.

The dramatic strengthening of working-class power under a robust LBI would sooner or later lead to capital disinvestment and flight, since capital can only make profits through exploitation and won’t invest unless it can make a profit. But slowing production would undermine the material basis of an LBI.

The only way out is to continue producing even if one can’t make a profit. Thus, an LBI would sooner or later force onto the stage the age-old question of the ownership of means of production.

Of course, as with any state program, it has the potential to prove disastrous to the working class... I agree with you that Steem, or something like it, might be a good vehicle to help provide for us all.

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I'm hesitant to read the article because I already disagree pretty strongly with the assumptions made here:

people would still be forced to labor under a boss

"Forced" how? Via a gun? I work for myself as do many others and I think many more will as well. The idea of "laboring under a boss" is, to me, an anachronistic one. The global economy has no borders.

capital can only make profits through exploitation

That, to me, is just silly. They should watch some lectures from Yaron Brook on YouTube. Or maybe start with this interview on the Ruben Report (which is a great show): Ayn Rand: Philosophy, Objectivism, Self Interest (full interview with Yaron Brook)

I think production is going to handled via automation.

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"Forced" how? Via a gun? I work for myself as do many others and I think many more will as well. The idea of "laboring under a boss" is, to me, an anachronistic one. The global economy has no borders.

Forced by what Max Weber called the whip of hunger.

Rational capitalistic calculation is possible only on the basis of free labor; only where in consequence of the exitence of workers who in the formal sense voluntarily, but actually under the compulsion of the whip of hunger, offer themselves, the costs of products may be unambiguously determined by agreement in advance.

If the choice is between selling one's labor and homelessness or starvation, one is forced in a sense every bit as meaningful as if he were held at gunpoint. He has no choice in the matter.

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Which is why Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is so important. If we're talking about life and death situations (war, extreme poverty, starvation, etc), then morality has different standards, IMO. To argue "human beings should be free to exist without providing any value to anyone else" is, to me, a silly concept because human beings need food, shelter, clothing, etc. I lean towards materialistic determinism which implies none of us have a "choice" in some sense. To me, what works, is giving someone many different choices as to how to provide value to others (what you call "selling one's labor"). If one boss is a dick, there are many other options in the Internet world today (including being your own boss). If your skills aren't valued by the market, that means they aren't valued by other human beings enough to exchange tokens of value they worked to earn.

To me, many of the anarcho-communist ideas sound like people upset at having to provide value to others instead of just taking value all the time.

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To argue "human beings should be free to exist without providing any value to anyone else"

This is a pretty egregious straw man.

If one boss is a dick, there are many other options in the Internet world today (including being your own boss).

This sounds nice, and it is very convincing to people who have an abundance of options and the resources to pursue a wide range of opportunities. That's simply not the case for the majority of humanity.

If your skills aren't valued by the market, that means they aren't valued by other human beings enough to exchange tokens of value they worked to earn.

This glosses over the fact that "the market" is dominated by concentrated wealth. You're framing the interests of money as the interests of people, when it couldn't be further from the truth. The majority of humanity has no measurable wealth to influence the conditions of the market.

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Thanks Ben!