Imagine being guaranteed a salary, regardless of whether or not you had a job. Well folks, this isn’t a dream; it’s called basic income, where individuals get a salary in hopes that they will do meaningful work while abolishing poverty. Sounds like a utopia, right?
Y Combinator, a tech hub for new companies, announced today that it would begin its first basic income experiment in Oakland, CA. The company originally stated they wanted to do a five-year long experiment, but has now decided to cut down the length. They announced in a blog post “Our goal will be to prepare for the longer-term study by working on our methods — how to pay people, how to collect data, how to randomly choose a sample, etc.”
Depending on how the pilot goes — which is said to be about six months to a year — Y Combinator may choose to continue with the long-term study. The pilot program will give basic income to 100 residents of Oakland.
Elizabeth Rhodes, the research director of the program, stated that the plan is to give each participant between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars each month in hopes that they will be happier and more financially stable.
Y Combinator took to its company blog on Tuesday with a post stating, “In our pilot, the income will be unconditional; we’re going to give it to participants for the duration of the study, no matter what,” they wrote. “People will be able to volunteer, work, not work, move to another country — anything. We hope basic income promotes freedom, and we want to see how people experience that freedom.”
Y Contributor President, Sam Altman, has argued that, as technology increases, the need for a universal basic income will increase.
“In a world where technology eliminates jobs, it will mean that the cost of having a great life goes down a lot,” said Altman in a twitter post today. “And I think we need something like basic income to have a cushion and a smooth transition to the jobs of the future.”
However, the program is starting off small; the impact that basic income could have on the country is still unclear.
Advocates for basic income believe that it will free people and allow them to become more creative and perform higher quality work while leading happier lives. While others believe the idea of basic income could be more destructive and lead many people to stop working altogether.
There are other international companies that are conducting similar programs in countries like Germany and Kenya. All of these companies want to test basic income in hopes that it will be successful enough to be implemented on a larger scale.
Y Contributor says it is already working with Oakland city officials and community groups to plan the pilot, which does not yet have an official launch date.