Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an idea which has been gaining speed in recent years. In essence, it is an unconditional income for each and every person on the planet. The idea has received support and critique from all over the political spectrum. Though it has been proposed again and again since the 16th century, the idea really began to gain traction in the 1920s when automakers first began to feel the sting of automation. Now, crypto-UBIs might just provide an opportunity to take the idea mainstream.
The double-edged sword of automation poses a clear and present threat to workers worldwide. Research suggests that emerging economies are likely to be hit the hardest, with a sobering 77 percent of all jobs in China likely to be automated in the next two decades. Even developed countries which have already experienced a wave of automation aren’t exactly safe. In the tech capital of the U.S., San Francisco, over 40 percent of all jobs could become automated in the same timeframe.
Elon Musk explained in a speech at the World Government Summit in 2017, "There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better," adding, “I want to be clear. These are not things I wish will happen; these are things I think probably will happen."
Artificial intelligence may be the most pressing reason to move for a UBI solution, but it’s certainly not the only one.
Dan Larimer opens the floodgates
In recent weeks, Larimer, a long-time supporter of an idea similar to universal basic income, what he calls “universal resource inheritance”, has been involved in a number of lengthy conversations on the subject.
Throughout the conversations, Larimer stresses that the goal is not to feed the poor or to put a cap on wealth, but to level the cross-generational playing field and give everyone a share of the global economy.
At its core, Larimer’s philosophy is based on the idea that no one person is entitled to earth’s resources, and that wealth built from these resources could be redistributed over a set period of time utilizing his proposed plan for universal resource inheritance.
Larimer argues that the proposal is essentially a peace treaty between generations that could help to avoid future conflict.
To accomplish these goals, Larimer suggests that monetary inflation could be a piece of the puzzle.
This idea is supported in a 2015 article entitled “The basics of basic income”. “Unlike taxes which operate on income and transactions, inflation is a direct tax on the capital of society," explains Larimer. "It is also a hidden tax which means that people do not perceive it as clearly as they do an income tax and therefore are less likely to take actions to avoid it.”
In this article, however, Larimer also notes that “Without taxation there would be no demand for federal reserve notes. Without the threat of force, no one would hold their wealth in an asset that is being debased to the tune of $5 trillion dollars per year to fund consumption."
"This is why a crypto currency project will never be able to implement the concept of a ‘Basic Income’. The inflation rate would be so high that the wealthy would never choose to hold it. There would be no buyers, only sellers.”
Larimer proposes a 5 percent wealth tax on top of 5 percent inflation in order to fund universal resource inheritance.
To address the 5 percent inflation, Larimer notes:
And the 5 percent wealth tax:
With the philosophy and funding in place, Larimer goes on to outline the implementation of the project utilizing blockchain technology.
Larimer highlights the need for auditable and unique IDs wherein every participant can be accounted for and ‘bad actors’ can be managed accordingly.
Coincidentally, verifiable identities will be a major feature in the upcoming Steem 2.0 social media EOS dApp.
When asked if EOS was planning to take on a universal basic income (or in this case, a universal resource inheritance) project, Larimer responded with a simple emoji:
Though it’s likely these discussions have been happening behind closed doors for some time, Larimer’s public conversations on this matter could hint at the subject of his upcoming September 23 announcement.
Other UBI projects in the crypto sphere
Two larger projects trying to take on the challenge of creating a UB-like cryptocurrency are Mannabase and SwiftDemand.
SwiftDemand is one of the largest crypto-UBI initiatives, with over 500,000 participants to date. Swift currently allocates 100 coins per day to each user participating in the growing ecosystem. The project determines identity through government-issued documentation verified by “Identity Providers”.
The protocol operates under a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) wherein “Delegated Nodes” are elected by “Swift Citizens.” These nodes are responsible for electing/banning Identity Providers, voting on salaries for providers and other nodes, and voting on inflation policies.
Though the project is not yet utilizing blockchain technology, Swift plans to move forward with a NEO fork in due time.
Mannabase is one of the earliest attempts at a crypto-UBI. Founded in 2015, the project utilizes its own blockchain (a peer-coin fork) and boasts over 200,000 registered users.
In its UBI initiative, 0.067 percent of the circulating supply of Manna is distributed evenly among every participant each week. While there are currently no merchants accepting the coin, the project is actively pursuing partnerships.
Will crypto-UBIs change the world?
While these projects are still in development, or at least the very early stages of adoption, there is tremendous promise in the ideas being circulated. It’s a new kind of DIY approach to economic equality, and no matter the political or philosophical reason behind each project, it is refreshing to see groups of people who believe in an alternative to the status quo actively coming together to make it happen.
Blockchain technology is already transforming the way charities manage identity and distribute funds, so crypto-UBIs may just be the most logical next step.
Picture from Wikimedia Commons.
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Texan living in Mexico, new tech enthusiast, decentralization fan, cryptocurrency enthusiast, geopolitical junkie, digi-explorer, and music lover. I believe that we are on the cusp of a new frontier in how we will view the government, money and energy. Let’s be a part of it, together.