Basic Income – Appease those left behind?

Source: MIT Tech Review, Jun 2016

The project is an experiment in what’s known as a “basic income”—or, when the money is given to entire populations, as a “universal basic income.” At its core, it’s a means for a government to alleviate poverty, replacing the myriad bureaucracy-bound safety-net policies in industrialized countries that struggle, with mixed results, to get money into the hands of those who most need it.


Progressives generally like such schemes, as long as they don’t leave the poor and jobless with less money than they get under existing safety-net programs. Many conservatives and libertarians are fans, too, thanks in part to the idea that a basic income would shrink government bureaucracy.

For the Silicon Valley crowd, the prime motivation appears to be a concern that automation has been displacing jobs, and that increasingly sophisticated artificial-intelligence applications could accelerate the trend.

“The idea of a basic income is a good one in a world where robots do most of the work, but we probably won’t be there for 30 to 50 years,” says Erik Brynjolfsson, who researches the digital economy at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

at a time when the tech economy is generating huge amounts of wealth, is Silicon Valley just attempting to appease those left behind?

addressing poverty and job loss is on the minds of those in the technology crowd—when they aren’t hard at work coming up with apps that will help make it possible to automate some task or access some service that once required an employee.

Combine the concern about AI-driven job displacement with the tech community’s drive to solve difficult problems through radically new approaches, and it’s not surprising that the idea of a basic income has become Silicon Valley’s latest obsession.

Add to that a deep skepticism that government is capable of solving significant problems. And then throw in an awareness that the wealth tech workers are creating for themselves and the rest of the affluent minority is driving inequality to a point that could cause social unrest.

an annual survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the main way the unemployed tend to use the time freed up by not working is in watching TV and sleeping, not inventing new products or mastering new skills.


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