Skip to content

Instantly share code, notes, and snippets.

@balupton balupton/
Last active Aug 27, 2017

What would you like to do?
My thoughts on Universal Basic Income, from a chat transcript


Hey guys, I’d like to have your opinion on something. As we all work in tech my guess is that most of us think Universal Basic Income (UBI) is an idea that should be given serious thought I also think many of you have seen this video by Laurent Alexandre last week :

In the video he says:

“I think putting in place a UBI is suicidal If we deal with the replacement of traditional jobs by IA by putting aside people who cannot work hand-in-hand with AI and giving them “food and distraction”, in 50y we’ll have a society like Metropolis and in 100y like the Matrix. We have to fight day in day out to reform education and industries to make sure workers stay relevant and complementary with AI”

I’m curious to know what you guys think about that? Interestingly btw, Emmanuel Macron is also opposed to UBI for the same reason that work is a means for self-fulfilment and we should not be content with just handing out money and thinking we’ve done our job as a charitable society


I lean to agree with Laurent. My thoughts:

  1. UBI just like anything that infringes on anyone’s freedoms, is immoral
  2. The goals of UBI can be accomplished without UBI/welfare's oppression - by levelling up people to do more with less income - which technology does and has always done
  3. People wanting UBI should instead devote their time to making technology cheaper and more accessible - the more they do that, the less money they have to 1. coerce from others under UBI/welfare 2. instigate under charity
  4. and (these days, Patreon) more or less are already implementing the goals of UBI - however they are accomplishing it through capitalism - that is to say a voluntary participation, rather than a mandatory participation - which I can get behind, and as such, I use them and other like donation services to participate in the gift/charity economy

I lean to agree with Emmanuel.

In Australia, we more or less already have an effectual UBI - if you have no money, you get considerable welfare and assistance to find a job - you are also tax free below $8000/year income - and university you can pay upfront or can be free and you pay for it from your own tax over the years - and if you have a disability or unable to work, the government gives you a free income (two of my friends have this, one is terminally ill, the other’s autism is problematic enough that she cannot participate in the normal workforce) - however, certain communities, like the aboriginal communities, are given welfare for just existing for various political reasons - which just like a mothers maternity - breeds dependence and destroys ambition in an exchange for comfort and safety


On the subject I highly recommend this article: It's a very long read so it's hard to TL;DR but it's about dealing with social risk and building new social institution. I've changed my mind about UBI after reading it. Enough With This Basic Income Bullshit; Basic income is to the social state what the flat tax is to the tax system.


@fred that’s interesting, added to my to-read list.

Just today I watched an interview with Ayn Rand where she was grilled about the practicality of her Objectivism philosophy, with contrasts between Democracy/Capitalism and Communism/Socialism. She was asked about the practicality of building roads if everyone is self-serving, her reply was simply well it is within certain people’s interests to have roads, so they will pay for them. It reminds me of Stefan Molyneux’s focus on the family unit above all else, with Ayn’s focus on the individual above all else. The stances generally polarise into either a honour for man (man is usually good and should be free), or a contempt for man (man is usually not good and should be controlled). Which is strange to me, as things like socialism/marxism/communism are still to the self-interest of some, and against the interests of others - which makes me think that Objectivism isn’t necessarily a philosophy but an observation of the condition of man - which then begs that the honouring man perspective is as innate as any upward drive.

It’s interesting to me how such seemingly benign social experiments can go so far as changing and challenging the very fabrics of our worldview and drive. — Lífspeki is the word I want:


Nice @fred, will read it!

@benjamin, should I take it for the rest of the discussion that you’re a libertarian, calling taxation immoral ? 🙂

100% agree with your point that hopefully technology should make the cost of living cheaper and thus increase people’s economic freedom. But I think voluntary donations would only scratch the surface of supporting people who would not be able to support themselves through work because of technology. This threat calls for a much bigger, systemic change. Something on the scale of UBI (I’m not saying it’s the solution, I’m saying that any potential solution must have similarly high impact potential)

The question i’m asking is: if UBI risks making people less free by pushing them onto the road of lazy complacency and robbing them of the dignity and fulfilment that work provides, then what would be the solution?

Can we realistically expect most people to remain productive in tomorrow's economy?

Or what would be required for UBI not to lead us perniciously into a dystopian future? In Ancient Greece, citizens did not have work (like people who would benefit from UBI) but they spent their time doing physical activities, engaging in the arts and in politics. For the 1st time in History technology has the potential of “freeing" people from work. How can we change our values so that this effectively frees us (like citizens in ancient Greece) rather than enslave us (like people in the matrix)?


Your posturing is as if people have no agency. The matrix movies are a testimony to the realisation of man's agency against parental care. The ending attests to this - with a peace between the machines and the humans - those who exercise their agency may voluntarily leave the comfort of the matrix and fend for themselves in the chaos of the real world - however before the ending, it is also a testament to man’s drive for agency and self actualisation - the scenes between neo and the architect, the oracle, and smith explain this - with only neo and this team believing in the power of agency, and through this belief, and the architects disbelief of it, they are able to convince the oracle of the power of neo’s agency and conquer smith, and survive the humans who wish to tear them down (cipher from the first movie).

Those under UBI, those under welfare, those living under their parents paychecks, all still have agency to fend for their own wills and desires - they are not enslaved, nor are they oppressed - there are no threats to those benefiting from those systems. Their agency and potential for self-actualisation is merely unfulfilled.

UBI in no way oppresses those who benefit from it, the oppression is entirely from those it coerces the resources from.

For whether we can expect most people to remain productive in the future economy, and on the theme of saving people from themselves. I think that anything that judges our fellow man, rather than just ourself, leads to a problematic cycle of wanting to change our fellow men, and in some cases, even actions to. I think letting others do as they please, as long as it doesn’t infringe on others freedoms, is fine and the best we currently know - a particular example of this is consensual murder victims for the sadists and masochists - that said, a society in this system should praise agency, cherish it, and work to its fulfilment, to ensure it is developed artfully - as otherwise things like suicide and other vices can establish their grip.

That said, I don’t think productivity is the goal. I don’t think anything besides self-actualisation should be the goal.

Already today, to accomplish exercise, we no longer accomplish it through our everyday quest of survival through hunting, gathering, building, farming, and so on - instead because we sit all day in an unnatural state at an unnatural machine, then to accomplish this innate part of our human drive, we instead must unproductively (as the means are the end), to run around in circles like a hamster, to lift heavy things up and down, up and down, up and down, or to sway side by side on a mat.

It is also very easy to say other people’s works are not productive - most of art I would consider this way. However, that is not for me to say, or to enforce, or hope to change - as it would be dogmatic.

Even Yoga’s origins is the practice of finding god within oneself - which is self-actualisation through a very unproductive means.

Perhaps the struggle is also, that a need to work, is an extrinsic motivation away from a familiar destruction - whereas not needing to work, requires the much more difficult “intrinsic motivation” that is the desire to quest into the chaos of an unknown state.

This switch of motivations, and the require of triumph over one’s own vices to make the switch between motivations and the quest into the unknown is also something it seems the human condition struggles against - hence the different religions/ideologies take on this condition.

If technology frees us from work, then it is the freedom from the state of destruction. And just leaves the quest of agency and self-actualisation to accomplish. Which for some may be within Amish communities, and for others may be CEO of Tesla, and for sadists and masochists a blessed union.

For taxes. I’m fine with them, just let them be consensual - which the current system does not support, as we vote for parties not policies and fund even things we do not agree with.

This seems an implementation from archaic technology, rather than something desirable within itself.

With modern technologies, like the internet and the blockchain. We could have instant free verifiable voting - something never accomplished before - as such we can vote thousands of a times a year for free, instead of just one for huge costly amounts.

As such, individuals of a nation could vote for or against or abstain from many whatever policies they want or do not want. As well as donate to that system. And the government is just a collection of volunteers who implement the active policies with the donated budget. When policies change, they don’t get upset as they are not parties.

However, even this system poses some very interesting challenges. For instance, certain biological traits, even gender, influence political preference. And also requires a lot of trust, trust that people know which policies are best for them. However, it would also be the ultimate democracy, and differences within the nation can nullify and triumph conflicting views - as does the balance of the paternal and maternal gender roles. For instance, the working class and the intellectual class would vote for different competing policies. Perhaps then, the policies should be localised, rather than nation wide. Although that could cause factions that compete and divide - which more or less countries already accomplish.

But then we get onto subjects I am completely not qualified to muse about. As I have no idea what is right for another man - I can only speculate.

And that said, the current Australian system seems a very good compromise of consent. Welfare mostly goes to those who need it and incentivises those who can to participate in the economy. I can vote and campaign on things I do and don’t agree with. And can also leave the country if I do not wish to participate. Or even declare my sovereignty and forgo all benefits. Something like UBI, I’d vote against, as I think the current system works better.

Sign up for free to join this conversation on GitHub. Already have an account? Sign in to comment
You can’t perform that action at this time.