The Covid-19 crisis has accelerated a trend towards a workless society

30 April 2020, Palo Alto, California

I am now the founder of UBI Network (ubinetwork.org). We are developing a way to distribute Universal Income to all citizens, globally. For those unfamiliar with me I was previously founder at EasyNet (the first European consumer Internet Provider); RealNames (the first multi-lingual web address system) and Archimedes Labs (his Palo Alto based accelerator/incubator).

UBI Network will seek funding, but for now we need volunteers in various fields. Engineering (Full Stack, Blockchain, Android, iOS, Desktop, DAO experience); Product Development and Management, PR, Policy, Economics, Executive Experience. You can indicate interest here

Below is a video interview by Andrew Keen where I explain the idea and a short essay about it.

These are early versions of the idea. Feedback is very welcome.

Accelerated Digital Ventures, where I am a founder,  has an offsite twice a year, and in order to experience ourselves as our customers (startups) do we all take on the task of presenting the case for an imaginary investment. The last offsite was in October 2019, in Spain. I chose to present a commercially investable case for Universal Income. My entire roomful of colleagues voted against myself and the other three members of my team in refusing to fund the idea. It was all in good fun, but also deflating.

What a difference seven months makes.

What is Universal Income?

Universal Income is a concept that gives a fixed amount of spending power, periodically, to cover needs. It requires citizens to register and set up a wallet and from that point on receive the Income, digitally, and pay for the needs of life using it.

How would it work?

Advocates variously argue for UBI to be given monthly or annually to all citizens. Some believe governments should issue it, others believe it is a self-managed blockchain methodology using some kind of payment token. Amounts between $360 a year and $24000 a year are frequently cited as targets.

How to get Basic Income to happen?

Universal Income has to be able to provide a person with their needs. For example, $2000 a month for each citizen, and an additions $200 a month for each child under 18. For a private entity to initiate a Universal Income initiative there would be four things it would have to achieve:

1. A registry of citizens, validated as genuine, yet remaining anonymous, would be a pre-condition. This is so distribution to actual persons was possible.

2. A digital wallet available to any citizen.

3. A Universal Income issuing authority with governance.

4. Merchants would need to be incentivized to accept the Universal Income tokens to qualify for cash back or discounts against the purchase of goods and services.

The first three can now be accomplished using software, and without Government permission. The last would require economic incentives to merchants to accept the UI token as a discount to a purchase. Possibly 10% initially and scaling to 100% discount over time. For that to be possible the discount tokens would need to have residual value.

Why would Universal Income be good?

An alliance of citizens, supported by merchants, could create a seamless method of distributing and accounting for an entirely new global purchasing token. It would be especially pertinent now, and as we leave Covid-19 behind, as automation further reduces those in work, it will continue to be relevant.

What needs to be understood?

Of course there are many questions. Who will build this? Will it be a not for profit organization or an impact organisation and for-profit? How will it be governed? Why would merchants agree to take the UBI tokens as part-payment? Would UBI eventually replace salaries and wages as work reduces?

I think I have to ask my colleagues to vote again.