In Brief
Silicon incubator Y Combinator announced that it has chosen Oakland to pilot "Basic Income," the company's new poverty mitigation project.

Is there such thing as free lunch?

Would you like to be one of the lucky Oakland residents who will get free cash every month from Y Combinator? You read that right — FREE.

Early in June, the famed Silicon Valley incubator announced that it has selected Oakland to pilot its new “Basic Income” project. According to the team, the Basic Income experiment will give some lucky residents a small amount of money per month, no strings attached, for a year. The intent is to see how (and if) individuals act differently with some additional income to help offset the cost of living.

Now, Y Combinator is refining the project a little, narrowing in on the exact number of participants and the amount that each will be given. Currently, they estimate that the project will spend about $1.5 million over the course of a year to study the distribution of $1,500 or $2,000 per month to 30 to 50 people. There will also be a similar-sized control group that gets nothing.

The project is set to start before the end of 2016, and unsurprisingly, it has a number of skeptics. After all, people are unlikely to really change their habits, as they know that the money will run out after 365 days…so it’s not really “true” Basic Income, but it is a notable step to gather information.

Image source: Ars Technica
Image source: Ars Technica

Can people volunteer for the free cash?

Project lead Elizabeth Rhodes, says the project’s goal is “to empower people and give people the freedom to be able to meet their basic needs.”

Some questions, of course, still remain for exactly how the Basic Income project will operate. For example, will people be randomly chosen or do they have to be at a certain income level? Will rich people be automatically excluded?

If it does show promising results, then the project will be expanded over the next five years to hundreds of citizens and perhaps include people beyond Oakland.