Startup to Give People Free Money for a Year. For Science.

Y Combinator is putting “universal basic income” to the test

By Evan Bleier

 
Startup to Give People Free Money for a Year. For Science.
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13 June 2016

Thanks to the tech incubator that helped birth Airbnb, Reddit and Dropbox, a group of Oakland residents will soon have more than the Warriors to celebrate.

To learn what people do when given a “universal basic income,” Y Combinator will provide 50-100 Oakland residents with a basic income of  $1,800-2,000 per month for a year.

Will they do something useful or play video games? Feel fulfilled or worthless? And, above all, will they “create more economic value than they receive” when given free rein?

"Oakland is a city of great social and economic diversity, and it has both concentrated wealth and considerable inequality," Y Combinator partner Sam Altman wrote in a blog post about the project. "These traits make it a very good place to explore how basic income could work for our pilot."

In addition to the socioeconomic implications of the program, the firm also wants to simulate what could be a very real situation for many humans in a world where robots and artificial intelligence eliminate employment opportunities, according to Y Combinator’s Matt Krisiloff.

“We’ve started to see that it might be possible that in the future there could really be less of a place for people to have traditional jobs,” Krisiloff says. “And if that’s the case, we need to create opportunities for people to have a safety net to be able to figure out other opportunities for themselves.”

We’ve heard of worse ways than free money to prepare for Skynet.

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