Why the World Needs a Basic Stipend and Universal Basic Services

Why the World Needs a Basic Stipend and Universal Basic Services

Why the World Needs a Basic Stipend and Universal Basic Services

by Michael K. Spencer

The future of Crypto UBI projects is showing promise.

By Tina RohPhilip Silva and Mike Spencer.

In the future, every citizen in the world will be eligible to receive a basic income and a bundle of free services — what in 2018 we might refer to as basic income or universal basic income.

This will be considered a human right.

The emergence of decentralization, public blockchains and cryptocurrencies reminds us that “money is not a perfect construct” for the new society that is forming in a new version of capitalism. One where algorithms, AI and automation will enable new levels of inclusion, equality and social justice.

In the future, it’s likely AI that will help automate how and when we are eligible for universal basic services and a basic income to cover our basic needs. Who knows, maybe the intersection of crypto and UBI will be formative in how this comes into being.

As the future of work is redefined, so will the future of money. Already, in 2018, this is what we are seeing happening with cryptocurrencies and the decentralization movement.

In These Times

Why the Worlds Needs Basic Income

Younger citizens are at an institutionalized disadvantage in capitalism and are forming different values from their experiences growing up in a society characterized by social inequality and a growing economic wealth inequality.

Never before in human history have people sought better solutions for the uneven distribution of wealth than today.

We can all agree that living below the poverty line is inhumane. But in a world of underemployment, small wages in the gig economy and increasing automation, what could be the solution?

Is there such a thing as social security for all? Are basic health care and education human rights? Should Trillion dollar companies like Apple or Amazon care about social equality, inclusion and equal opportunity?

The idea of an unconditional or universal basic income is taking shape and is increasingly a topic in the mainstream media, Reddit chats and the debates about the future of society we are all having.

We want to live in a fairer, more inclusive and decentralized world where money does not rule our life in a restrictive or oppressive way. We want automation and technology and AI to help us implement a world that doesn’t leave anyone behind.

The world needs more advanced basic stipend experiments:

  • To promote equal opportunity and increase inclusion in society

  • To improve the social safety net and give capitalism more ethics

  • To reduce poverty and promote holistic well-being

  • To begin to decouple our social roles and economic rewards

  • To create a truly free market for labor where each citizens’ preferences and abilities are optimized in how they give back to society

  • To begin to humanize the massive gulfs of economic inequality now found in capitalism

  • To help citizens adapt to a transition from a world of economic servitude to the future of work (whatever it may be).

Image: Martha Soukup / Flickr, CC. How we think of unemployment needs to be updated due to chronic underemployment now becoming a mainstream reality for millions of citizens.

How Basic Income Leads to Universal Basic Services

It’s not that the world will be a better place if we all unconditionally received $1,000 deposited into our bank account; it’s because things like the sharing economy, the gig economy, and acts of corporate social responsibility by huge companies are converging. It’s because underemployment is becoming the new unemployment. Thus things like universal basic services are destined to emerge.

Just as a Google Search is “free” (minus the advertising on our data) for some people, riding in a Waymo autonomous vehicle (self-driving car) will be free too. Or a heavily-discounted Amazon Prime membership might be free for some citizens in the future.

This will sync and complement how “basic income” emerges as a basic stipend along with access to a bundle of services depending on our financial, health and life-stage situation accordingly. It could bundle with free internet access, better incentives for content creation and consumption, with significant discounts for services such as education, banking, transportation and food.

Tina Roh on Github. Formerly @ Snapchat

Q & A with Crypto UBI Leaders

I sat down with Tina Roh and Philip Silva to discuss this emerging paradigm.

MS: Why does the world need UBI? What is likely to happen if it does not take place at wide scale with mass adoption?


TR: Automation is expected to radically shift the job market, putting 30% of existing jobs at risk by the mid-2030s. While there may be new jobs for highly educated people, it’s unclear how the 44% of workers with low education who are expected to lose their jobs will cope. Society will also need to support growing aging populations in virtually every country while younger generations are drowning in debt. Given that most people in the world don’t have any guarantee of a economic floor, the growing wealth inequality gap can leave many people destitute. UBI guarantees everyone a safety net for their basic needs.

PS: Twenty years from now, autonomous factories will be able to fabricate most things and then deliver them to doorsteps with little human involvement. In this future world, goods will be plentiful, but the need for the type of ‘work’ many humans do today could be scarce. I fear that many people, through no fault of their own, will lose the ability to trade their time for wages as they have been doing for centuries. UBI could ensure that everyone can flourish in this future world of plenty. Without it, the world’s income inequality could continue to rise toward dangerous levels.

Alwin Nikolais


MS: How can crypto’s value system of decentralization complement and spread the idealism of what basic income represents as a movement towards greater social inclusion and economic equality?

TR: The populist ideals of cryptocurrencies and the grassroots movement that made them valuable are exactly what we need to make UBI a reality. If a crypto-UBI proves to be effective, it will be much more resilient from the political climate of any country due to decentralization. The caveat is that while decentralization is the ideal, it’s also more difficult to implement, so many crypto-UBI projects are starting off on centralized systems while they try to nail down how to make the UBI valuable and sustainable.

PS: If we are going to remake the world’s financial system, it will need to be an open and decentralized process. Collectively the world is not making the decisions that most of its citizens would choose if they were actually given a choice. Decentralized governance and digital voting will lead to long term progress toward equality and inclusion.

Decentralized open source systems will allow infinite experimentation and the evolution of what works best. If everyone in the system truly has a voice, I believe there will be a gravitational pull towards inclusion and equality.

IDG Connect


MS: How is crypto and the future of money changing how we view the concept of a universal basic income?

TR: Previously, we thought that a UBI had to be implemented by the government. This made sense in the past, since currencies had to be minted, distributed, and regulated by central authorities in order for them to hold value and be trusted. But the advent of cryptocurrencies allows us to experiment and implement a new monetary system from the ground up, with incentive structures different from a government-backed currency. We can now challenge the rooted assumptions of where the value of the currency comes from and how that value should be distributed in order to maximize prosperity.

PS: I believe the biggest thing that has held back the spread of UBI is an aversion by many people to redistributing wealth. In the current government-created monetary systems, brand new money is created and distributed in a highly centralized fashion and often predominantly to already rich people. It then inefficiently trickles down through the system and there is little left for those at the bottom. Under a crypto-UBI system, it would be possible to distribute brand new money equitably to all people at its genesis. I believe this will be an easier system for people to accept as we transition to a more equitable world.

When people play Monopoly, no one feels cheated by the fact that everyone receives $200 every time they pass Go.

Green report


MS: How could universal basic income be implemented?

TR: The big question is where does the money to fund a UBI come from? One way is for governments to implement it, and they have many means to do so. But governments move slowly or lack the incentive to take action. While some governments like Finland are progressive enough to run experiments, those experiments can be vulnerable to political swings as in the case of the cancelled pilot program in Ontario, Canada.

Within the crypto-UBI community, people are experimenting from many different angles. There are many smaller problems we need to solve to make a crypto-UBI a reality, including making the currency valuable, implementing a policy that can sustain its value and ensuring each person can only receive the UBI once. Each project has a different take on these issues. We will need to see which combinations of solutions end up with the best dynamics to make UBI a success.

PS: I am thrilled that so many projects are working on different ideas about implementation and value. I think the keystone to making any of this work will be to first solve the ‘one account per person’ problem. Almost every UBI project faces this problem, yet many of them should be able to share a common solution. This is why I have gotten involved with efforts like brightIDand Kuwa that are trying to solve this tricky question in open source ways that any other application could utilize. Once it is simple for people to prove they are a unique user on any given system, it will be much easier to experiment with loads of UBI concepts and experiments to find what works best.

Image: Nordic Business Forum


MS: Should our traditional construct of what work is be changed?

TR: I think the traditional construct of work is already changing in an alarming way. We see a huge transition toward unstable gig economies. 94% of net job growth from 2005–2010 was in the alternative work category.

We need more stable and well-paid jobs, and a UBI could actually help achieve that in two ways. First, it gives people greater freedom to refuse exploitative jobs and invest in themselves through education or moving to regions with more economic opportunities. Second, it increases the amount of spending power available for basic services like education, healthy food, and preventative health care, which creates more stable jobs in those areas.

PS: The ways we work and think about working are changing and will continue to change. As we progress into the 2020s, machines will be able to do more and more tasks better than humans. Millions then billions of people are going to lose the jobs they do today. Many new jobs will be created, including many we can’t imagine today, but I have trouble believing that as many hours of paid human labor will be needed in the future as are required today. This shift will lead us to rethink, redefine, and reprioritize human work. Hopefully this will allow more people to do more work that they care about and that benefits humanity.

World Economic Forum


MS: How would a global UBI ensure an improved level of collective well-being?

TR: Human suffering leads to more suffering. A global UBI will ensure that people don’t have to be stuck in that hole just because they were born into the wrong family, country, or conditions. It also allows individuals to imagine a better future for themselves and take long-term risks like higher education or new ventures which will allow them to participate in an economy where human labor is becoming less valuable. This is especially important now since our world is growing more connected through globalization and a suffering public will lead to a suffering society.

A UBI can also lead to lasting improvements in productivity. The Roosevelt Institute found that a basic income of $1000/month in the US would result in over 4 million more people employed than today and potentially grow the U.S. economy permanently by over $2.5 trillion. I don’t think this GDP growth will happen because we’re spending more time building private jets. It would come from growth in sectors with better long-term payoffs like child care or adult education by increasing the floor of every person’s spending power.

PS: Many of the people reading this article already live in a world of plenty. Humanity’s production capacity is already astounding and it continues rapidly expanding. Our problem is not one of scarcity, but of distribution. I view UBI as being the most efficient solution to allow a more equitable distribution. By giving everyone a regular distribution of money, everyone would be able to make their own choices about how to participate in the growing prosperity of the world.

What if our basic needs were met without the harsh struggle to survive? How would we live differently?


MS: If Capitalism motivates people to innovate and provide value to society, how can a basic stipend incentivize people to continue to contribute through work and community involvement even while covering their basic needs?

TR: The incentives of Capitalism should still be able to work on top of a basic income. But I think Capitalism without an economic floor is flawed since it disincentivizes service-oriented work. In the U.S., a person who is on disability can’t volunteer in her community out of fear of losing her benefitsand 1 out of 5 teachers are forced to take second jobs, causing some teachers to leave their posts for higher paying corporate jobs.

Human beings are motivated through many other desires than the primordial need to survive: recognition, love, connection, status, materialism, art; to create, prove themselves and leave behind a legacy. It just means that people can now find and work on something that they enjoy and love, which means that they can succeed far more in that field than in something they do just to survive.

PS: No UBI proposals I have ever heard about seek to provide recipients with sufficient resources to live in luxury and have every one of their desires met. Having a baseline of income to cover essential needs should not discourage most people from seeking paid work.

Many people worry that if others received a UBI that they will become lazy, wasteful, and unmotivated, but when you ask those same people what they would do with a UBI, few of them would make such poor choices.

If tomorrow you learned that for the rest of your life you would receive a modest daily payment sufficient to always afford you access to basic food, water and shelter, would you suddenly quit your job and laze around?



MS: What are the crypto-UBI projects you are involved with?

TR: I’m working on Raha, which allows people to experiment with a basic income in the Raha currency via the mobile apps, which are available on Android and iOS. We are creating a currency that is easy to use and solving the unique identity problem using social connections. To be clear, it’s not yet a cryptocurrency — we’re centralized since we are still experimenting on various features that can help the currency grow and sustain its value. A small UBI can transform people’s lives.

PS: I am involved with a variety of projects in the crypto-UBI space and I am always excited to talk with new players. Some that I am most focused on include brightIDKuwaMannaSwiftDemand and Horizon.ngo
I am also a big fan of Raha!

I am beginning to focus more of my efforts outside of the crypto-UBI niche to bring in outside parties that want to help us change the world. I am excited to be starting conversations with a variety of social entrepreneurs, foundations, collaboration specialist, audacious thinkers, and innovative companies with products that could be sold for crypto-UBI.


Tina Roh is a software engineer who worked at Snap Inc. prior to working on Raha. Through welfare programs and need-based scholarships that allowed her to focus on education, she earned a B.S. in Computer Science from Stanford University. She believes that we can unlock great human potential if we provided financial security to everyone.

Philip Silva is a joint editor of our new publication UtopiaPress. He is a Futurist and promoter of cryptocurrency Universal Basic Income. A passionate advocate and collaborator focused on the intersection of technology, decentralization and UBI, he believes that this movement can help transform the world into and enable more prosperity and equality for all.

Mike Spencer is a futurism evangelist as well as active in blockchain and crypto writing. He works with other like-minded futurists on FutureSin. He believes basic income will be moderated by AI, decentralization and a radically different model of work, capitalism and human governance.

Do you believe in basic income and decentralization? Contact me on WeChat: mikekevinspencer if you want to write together. UtopiaPress and FutureSin are always on the lookout for more passionate writers.

Does Basic Income Need Blockchain?

Does Basic Income Need Blockchain?