There’s a swelling interest in Silicon Valley to explore and implement Universal Basic Income (UBI) policies, which give every citizen a guaranteed “salary” without stipulation. The goal of UBI is to bring everyone out of poverty and allow for a more even playing field of opportunity. Individuals and families who do not have to struggle to make enough money to cover their daily necessities like food and shelter will be empowered to contribute more to society through risk-taking and following their own interests.
Sam Altman, the President of Y Combinator, a seed accelerator with well-known names like Airbnb and Dropbox in its portfolio, has joined other tech giants, like Stewart Butterfield of Slack and Flickr, Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX, and Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, in throwing their support behind UBI.
In an interview with CNBC, Altman said, “I think about the amount of human potential that is being wasted by people that are not doing what they want to do. I think about how great it would be to undo that. And that’s really powerful to me.”
Evidence indicates that eliminating the stress of struggling to meet the basic requirements of life is just one factor that can improve the overall health of humanity. Altman understands this, saying “There’s so much research about how bad poverty is. There’s so much research about the emotional and physical toll that it takes on people.”
Altman is backing up these thoughts with action. Y Combinator is conducting a study in Oakland, California to see how giving people unconditional cash will impact their lives. The study is still ongoing, however, so Altman isn’t forthcoming with what data may be showing thus far.
Other experiments are also underway in places like Finland and being considered in Scotland. These social experiments will allow data to be collected from a variety of demographics to help formulate a more justified opinion about the potential of UBI.