Everything old is new again, as the saying goes, including the controversial idea that the solution to economic upheaval is free money.
Universal basic income (UBI), a social policy that guarantees a fixed, unconditional stipend to all members of a designated group or entire country, has been kicked around for centuries by thinkers from Thomas Paine to Milton Friedman. Now it is experiencing new life as autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and other advancing technologies rattle labor markets and foreshadow a future in which there simply may not be enough jobs for everybody who wants one.
Big-time disrupters Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have both weighed in on the concept in recent months (they like it), and multiple UBI experiments are underway around the world, including in California, Canada, Kenya and Finland. “The changes that are taking place in our societies are so big and so profound that we have to change our social policy systems,” says Olli Kangas, who is directing Finland’s UBI experiment. “The systems we created during the era of industrialization don’t respond anymore to the requirements we have in modern society, with digitalization and globalization taking over. Something must be done,” he says.
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