Point of Basic Income Research

Recent article written by Silicon Valley entrepreneur and billionaire Sam Altman *1 *2, explains his company’s interest in caring out a study on basic income, especially looking to answer theoretical questions like:

“Do people sit around and play video games, or do they create new things? Are people happy and fulfilled? Do people, without the fear of not being able to eat, accomplish far more and benefit society far more? And do recipients, on the whole, create more economic value than they receive?“
“idea is to give a basic income to a group of people in the US for a 5 year period” ... ”We’d be especially interested in a combination of selecting people at random, and selecting people who are driven and talented but come from poor backgrounds.”

The title above would be better as a question, as I am asking myself — and you as well — “Is there any point of Basic Income Research?” I am not saying that basic income is pointless, but I would like to argue that research can be pointless, or rather it can lead to wrong conclusions.

Let me explain why I think that way.

If we get a positive outcome from research that would mean that there are scientific bases for crating basic income structure as model for a future society, and that is fantastic. We could create many wonderful things, we could eradicate poverty, maybe crime rates will go down, maybe even wars will end, and, who knows, maybe we will create a futuristic harmonious society and heal the planet.

But what if the “experiment” does not succeed?

What if we discover that the majority of humans in the experiment were lazy, that they did not like doing much, and that they are not self-motivated, and that they just waste resources at a faster rate than at present, where they are limited by the amount of money they can earn in the current master-slave system. What then?

If that happens, and we know that there will be no jobs, as machines will take over, what does that mean?
Will those top 1%, who already have all the resources, seek to eliminate us all or just leave us to starve as by their standards we are useless?

About one thing we shouldn't have any doubts: machines will take over all the jobs, and they will start taking over faster than those predictions you are reading in the news.
Just a few months ago, there was discussion about how hard it is for AI to learn, and even harder to master, an ancient Chinese game called “Go”. In the last week of the January 2016, there was a news release that Google’s AI has beaten the “Go” champion. *3
Whatever your job is, soon — it will be obsolete.
Regardless of your being the most intelligent or the most memory-capable human being on this planet, in a few years, your cognitive process will be hugely inferior to machines. And, if cognitive processes of the smartest man on the planet are in doubt, is there any point discussing the manual jobs?

I have discussed it earlier, and it is very important to have it in mind: a setup of psychological experiments and the results that are coming out cannot be interpreted binary. [^] Unlike experiments in physics, psychological experiments can be (and usually are) misleading, and they can hugely depend on the setup: wrong setup means wrong outcome and wrong conclusion.

For instance, if I put the average Joe into a jet fighter aircraft and ask him to fly the jet, what will happen after he dies trying? What will that tell us about the aircraft or about Joe? If I repeat the experiment hundreds or thousands of times, and if I get the same outcome, is that going to tell me anything, except that average Joe is bad at flying?

It is same with basic income: people never lived that way, they do not know how to live in that way, and they will need time to adjust and learn. We have created a society which structure is largely a master-slave pyramid. We indoctrinated people to repeat corporate cultures like parrots; we have trained them to live in a certain way. Now, we are asking them to do something that is radically different, and we will measure how they are going to perform.

I hope you can see the paradox...

We have trained people to drive cars on straight roads, and now we will test them in jet fighters, and then we are going to judge jet fighter aircraft feasibility on how those non-pilot people performed?!

There are so many things that can impact the outcome of the Basic Income Research: a people that are selected, their past positive and negative experiences, the fact they have not been raised to live this way. Without them being immersed in such a life, I am afraid, we cannot even begin talking about the validity of this research.

What I am trying to say is that we are late with this research. We are 100 years late with it.

Starting now and conducting five years of experiments, I am afraid, is not good enough. We need people who lived that way from the beginning — people raised in such a society, people who lived and breathed that kind of life.

And, even then, research data won’t have a significant value, as there is a fundamental flaw: regardless of the amount of money, conversion rates, or efficiency factors, the issue is that we are trying to quantify the meaning of our existence with numbers and data.

But, what we are looking is not in numbers but in our hearts.

If you are not the type of person who likes theoretical thinking and philosophy, maybe now is a good time to begin, as your life will soon depend on it.

And, if you need experimental data, you can just dig through history books, and you will find information about many indigenous American tribes who lived without money for thousands of years. They were pretty much happy, until the white man came with his ideas of how we all need to live to be happy...

Please feel free to place a comment below. I would like to know what you think ...

Notes & References:

1. Basic Income by Sam Altman


2. Basic Income Researcher - Job post


3. In a Huge Breakthrough, Google’s AI Beats a Top Player at the Game of Go