Universal Basic Income

I spent my morning commute listening to Scroobius Pip interview Rutger Bregman about his new book, Utopia for Realists. One of the core subjects was the concept of Universal Basic Income, which has interested me for a long time.

The idea of a Universal Basic Income has been around for over 500 years, but only recently are we starting to see experiments to see if it can become a reality.  Often, it is described as a new way of thinking about welfare by ensuring that ALL citizens are provided with a basic level of income, regardless of whether they work or not.

A Universal Basic Income puts choice into the hands of citizens, creating new markets and cutting down on the bureaucracy of the state trying to intervene (and save money) in all cases.

The thought of an unconditional income that raises all citizens above the poverty line might seem utopian but in fact, the benefits could be way beyond the simple uplift of people from potential hardship. Click To Tweet

It is no secret that the world of work is changing. Automation, AI and algorithms will reduce the need for humans to work, and whilst a leisure-focused future awaits, there will need to be a shift from consumption to creation.

Our current thinking drives young people towards work, even against their dreams and wishes.  How many talented artists and musicians have ‘stored away’ their aspirations to pursue a degree and take an unrelated job that brings them an income.  Universal Basic Income might allow those people to foster those ambitions with a safety net, and create more than consume.

Even today, there are a high number of people that would like to spend time contributing back to society; volunteering, spending time with family and helping out with schools.  Working part-time is not an option.  However, half a job plus UBI could create a world where two people do a job, reducing unemployment and bringing people back into the world of work where jobs will become more scarce.

Like all big societal shifts, this thinking seems radical but is gaining a lot of support.  There is a two-year trial underway in Finland, and the Adam Smith Institute has been urging world leaders at Davos to consider the idea.

For me, the idea of preempting the shift to a world with less work and more leisure, less consumption and more creation and a way to encourage people towards more meaningful pursuits than just chasing a wage.

This video explains Universal Basic Income in a really simple way:




Building Dynasties

Yesterday, I woke up in the future. A man, with a private company, has sent a rocket to space and left a car in orbit. It’s truly the stuff of wild science fiction.

I was just 6 weeks old when a man stepped on the moon, and a teenager when I watched Challenger explode on TV. Since then, Space travel has seemed unobtainable again, a rare few launched from the steppes of Kazakhstan.

Building Dynasties

Today, its a different prospect. Millions of words will be written about Elon Musk and his ambition to reach Mars, he’ll fit it in alongside electric cars, solving power issues with batteries and shooting people from London to New York in less than 60 minutes inside a tube.

As well as the flamethrowers.

But what is really interesting is the horizon of these goals.   Like Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk is working on stuff that possibly won’t be fully formed and realised for decades. Maybe not even in their lifetimes.   Like the work of Steve Jobs, who fashioned Apple into the titan it has become, earning more and more, even after his death.

All of these leaders and their teams will be well rewarded this year and next year, and their families will never want for anything. Their companies and shareholders make huge amounts of money.  Their products and services change lives around the world.

Most importantly though, their ideas and achievements will live on long after they have gone, these people are building dynasties from technology. Their work will leave a legacy for many years.

Maybe even a billion.

The future is here

When I was a teenager, the future was the Babel Fish. A fictitious fish that could be inserted into an ear to deliver translation from any (galactic) language.

Later, with typical geek humour, we had babelfish.com which was clever but didn’t offer real time translation like its fishy namesake.

Then Skype did some cool stuff with translation, which felt like the future.  Until today, when Google launched the Pixel earbuds, which translate 20 languages in real-time.  And they’re wireless too.

It’s not quite a fish you stick in your ear, but this is truly the future. I can’t wait to see how these work, and whats next.


Planning for the future

I have been spending a lot of time writing a business plan recently.  Defining a vision, and strategies to move toward that future state, then in the time honoured tradition breaking those strategies into chunks of achievable work.

So, this quote feels particularly appropriate:

The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination. – John Schaar

Whilst writing my vision and defining the future state I’ve realised that for this situation, I’m building new pathways, and that is changing more than just the business.

Is the future here?

We’ve been using Amazon Echo devices at home for about a month, there are three ‘Dots’ around the house, and they get used daily, mainly for music streaming and general information.

I’m a massive fan. This technology feels like the future, much more than virtual reality or giant screens that take up a wall. The Alexa interface to the AI feels like a natural and intimate way to communicate, and once we all discover how to talk casually to a computer, things will seem less ‘deliberate’.

We’re still a way off the fluidity and intelligence of the interface in ‘Her’, but so far, so good.

The next step is to build the skills that the Alexa operating system can understand. Amazon has made it easy to build skills and get them into the marketplace. As more developers get on board, the network effect of Alexa will improve. Enhanced skills, along with different form factors, will make the Alexa ecosystem a genuinely useful place to be.

For now, the deep pockets of Amazon mean that Alexa is here to stay. Especially in this house.