Universal Basic Income – Is Blockchain and Cryptocurrency the Answer?
Last updated on October 21st, 2022 at 06:41 pm
Universal Basic Income or UBI has become a prolific topic in recent years.
Though this idea has origins dating back to the 1500’s, it seems as though it has found a new resurgence in many countries across the globe.
Much of the same problems and concerns which plagued the idea over the centuries still remain and these problems and concerns continue to keep this idea from becoming a reality.
However, many proponents and futurists alike believe that we are potentially at a crossroad when it comes to UBI.
A place where understanding meets technology…
A place where human need meets inspiration…
A place where the idea of providing Universal Basic Income may be closer to reality than ever before…
UBI – An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Universal Basic Income was introduced by Sir Thomas More in the early 1500’s.
Since that time discussions have permeated the centuries and have garnered both supporters and detractors alike; all of whom have argued vehemently on both sides of the issue.
Proponents of UBI obviously point to the basic humanity of the idea.
They often base all of the potential positive outcomes on the premise that every human being deserves to have and be able to maintain, a very basic level of living.
As we all know, currently in our society, a person needs to have an income which provides the ability to obtain the ‘necessities of life.’
These proponents further their argument with the positive results garnered from the experiments which have been performed throughout the years utilizing varying forms of UBI.
The quantifiable results that they highlight often include a reduction in poverty, crime, and hospitalization rates.
But these proponents take the results a step further by highlighting benefits which are a bit less quantifiable, such as, participants in the program feeling less stress and seeming happier.
While these positives certainly seem to bolster the case for implementing UBI on a mass scale, opponents to the idea are quick to point out the most glaring and equally quantifiable result… that large scale adoption would be an economical impossibility posed to any country or government trying to undertake such an enormous project.
These opponents also have less quantifiable arguments which include the likelihood that recipients would become lazy and decide not to work or otherwise contribute to society.
So why are we at crossroad?
Why does there seem to be an imminent need for UBI now?
Many tech moguls and Silicon Valley types believe that we are making technological advances so quickly that there will be numerous disruptions in the current workforce.
We can already see some of this with the incorporation of self-driving cars on roadways and self-service kiosks in major retail and restaurant chains.
But moreover, the continuous development and improvement in artificial intelligence (AI) can be seen everywhere. Frankly, during the last Super Bowl, in our opinion, practically every other commercial had something to do with AI.
This ongoing AI integration into various industries will only serve to disrupt an already volatile jobs market. Ultimately, it is believed that this change will displace numerous workers throughout most segments of the world economy.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when trying to wrap our heads around the reasons why there is a perceived need for providing a basic income to individuals.
If you want to know more about UBI, you can read our previous blog post which gives more details about the concept and its history.
Challenges of Implementing UBI
No matter what side of this issue you come down on, one thing is certain…
Creating a Universal Basic Income program large enough, useful enough and fair enough to be distributed to the entirety of the planet would have two major problems likely to stop it from ever becoming a reality…
1. It would be too large to manage on a global scale
2. It would be impossible to fund such a major initiative
Now, while we do not claim to have all the answers to these questions… it is our hope to put forth some ideas which may help point humanity in the direction of creating a means to provide a Universal Basic Income to all people.
Development, Implementation and Management
Let’s be honest…
Delving into this section of a potential UBI platform could be an entire research paper unto itself.
Let us be clear, we are definitely not going to be probing this plan in that level of exploration here…
But, let’s try to give the idea of a UBI program some legs by reviewing what we consider to be some of the basic essentials of such a program.
A project of this magnitude would need to:
• Provide unhindered/universal access
• Encompass all human beings across the globe, regardless of region or country
• Be distributed equally and fairly
• Have complete transparency
• Have monetary distributions accepted by all economic sectors of society
• Have a continual/renewable source of funding
That sounds like a tall order… maybe we should just stop right there…
Again, please realize that this is meant to be a “mile high” or macro view and discussion…
So, what are some of the potential options for bridging the obvious and unexpected challenges that each of these points creates so society can bring this program into existence?
With respect to the access issue…
Having participants access the platform via the internet would seem to be the obvious and best option.
While we concede, that as of the writing of this article, there are recesses of the globe where access to the internet does not exist; given the current swiftness of internet adoption, it is the best option.
Currently, it’s estimated that approximately 3.2 billion people have access to the internet.
More and more people gain access to the internet daily. Frankly, we would postulate that this technology will eventually reach near total adoption.
So, it would only seem likely that having an online platform would be the way to go for long term access and sustainability.
With respect to encompassing all human beings across the globe…
We would submit for your consideration that each person should be responsible for establishing ‘proof’ that they exist.
We know, that probably sounds a bit strange, but consider the need to ensure that these UBI payments must be made to a ‘real’ person.
Much like you currently need to verify your identity to do many things… such as open a bank account, vote, attend college, etc… it makes sense that a person should be required to make a similar type of verification to receive these payments.
Now, we realize that this topic alone brings up a multitude of potential issues…
Let’s be honest, sometimes the existing KYC/AML regulations are cumbersome at best…
However, even as we write these words, most people can and already have on many occasion provided documentation to verify who they are.
But for those who live where verification may be an issue, there are projects in development within the blockchain and crypto space which could potentially resolve and/or streamline this process…
But that’s a topic for another time…
So, for the purposes of this article, let’s assume that most people can complete the necessary level of proof.
Then a periodic check-in process should be established.
You might ask, wouldn’t the fact that payments are received be enough?
We would suggest that there would need to be a higher threshold… family members could gain access to an account even after a family member dies for example.
Frankly, we believe that it is highly unlikely that anyone would argue against this if their intentions are simply to partake of the program.
Let’s be honest, sustainability is key.
In order to maintain the viability of such a platform, ensuring that payments are received only by the intended individual is paramount.
With respect to equal and fair distribution…
We would submit for your consideration, that this item should be combined with a future point on the list… have complete transparency.
By having complete transparency, any project can shine a light into its deepest recesses, thus helping to thwart an individual or government from co-opting it; the result of which could potentially mean the manipulation of people involved in that program.
The potential for any group or government to gain complete control of a program such as UBI could have detrimental ramifications and must obviously be avoided at all costs.
This idea of transparency, frankly, also plays into the next point which is that of funding.
But… before we get too far off the first point, which was fair and equal distribution… let’s bring it back around…
Fair distribution should probably include a minimal level of proof of identity, no requirements to maintain the payments (with the obvious exception of proving you’re alive) and the amount of payment should be the minimum necessary for the person to survive.
Now, all things being equal, that may sound easy… but it’s definitely not…
Let’s face it; what is enough to survive in one part of the world is not enough in another.
Frankly, this issue plays into the secondary point of ‘equally’ distributed…
Honestly, while having every person across the globe receiving the same benefit sounds great… Utopian even… given the current economic status of the world, it’s not likely.
So, we would submit for consideration, that equal payments should exist at least on a regional basis… with the long term goal of equal global distributions.
I can hear people right now saying…
“Sounds great, but how do you ensure equal distributions?”
The answer… Blockchain.
Now, the reasons why we believe that blockchain is the best answer is exhaustive and honestly influences every one of the points we are discussing.
But like many things in this article, this is another one of those points which could be a research paper unto itself.
However, as we continue with this article, we will attempt to discuss, at least on a surface level, the points which make blockchain technology the best option.
With respect to having this payment accepted as payment in every sector of society…
Again… given the current status of the world… no small feat…
As of the writing of this article, there are 180 currencies across the globe.
That fact alone would make trying to distribute payment ‘equally & fairly’ difficult at best, but imagine the issue of being paid in a currency other than you native currency…
How would you transact any business?
It would be a virtual impossibility…
What if you moved from one region of the world to another, your native fiat currency may not be accepted there…
The hurdles are almost endless. So, whatever form of payment is being issued must be acceptable to businesses and merchants across the globe.
The answer… Cryptocurrency
Like blockchain, cryptocurrency helps to provide many benefits to a UBI program. In theory, these potential benefits could overcome the hurdles experienced in other UBI type programs throughout history.
With respect to the continual/renewable source of funding…
This is where blockchain and cryptocurrency can shine through in our opinion…
The infrastructure for utilizing this technology is already in place… and as of the writing of this article is continuing to be developed by major players in the financial, business and tech sectors.
The major obstacle currently in place is the lack of global consensus regarding the definition of cryptocurrency and the laws regarding how to tax and regulate it.
While this is indeed a large hurdle… it can be accomplished.
Let’s look at cryptocurrency as a means of funding…
Currently, Bitcoin is the most well-known of all the cryptocurrencies. But, whether or not Bitcoin is the medium by which payments are made is immaterial…
Even today, there are means by which many cryptos can be used as payment and instantly transacted into the desired currency of the receiver.
So similar technology and services could easily be employed to whatever cryptocurrency is chosen as the preferred UBI payment… in essence, making the payment universal.
The fact that cryptocurrency is a digital asset makes its use preferable in a UBI program.
Consider that even in various sections of the globe where internet service is sparse, many residents of these areas have access to a cell phone.
A mobile device it all that is necessary for people to be able to transact with cryptocurrency.
Think about it…
There would be no need for going to the bank to get your money; it would always be with you.
Paying for good or services would be as easy to pay for with your phone as swiping your credit card is today… but the fees incurred would be a whole lot less expensive.
But we’ve gotten off on a bit of a tangent… we are supposed to be discussing crypto as a means of funding UBI.
Let’s do it…
Consider if you will, even with today’s level of use and adoption of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, it is possible to create a cryptocurrency and develop a decentralized means of managing it…
Existing allows for income to be generated from cryptocurrency.
These options include, but are obviously not limited to mining, staking and automated trading of new and existing cryptos.
We would submit that these types of technologies, not to mention the many more that would undoubtedly follow as the crypto space matures, would be able to fund a Universal Basic Income program on a global scale.
Whatever cryptocurrency was utilized in a UBI program would also derive all the benefits of blockchain…
Specifically, decentralization and immutability.
Decentralization would ensure that no one entity would be in control of the funding of the system.
This would help to eliminate the previously mentioned issue of any group or government gaining too much control over a UBI project.
Immutability would ensure complete transparency.
Because blockchain creates a virtually unalterable record of everything that takes place on the chain and makes it completely public to anyone who wishes to view all the transactions that take place.
Because no funds could be moved without being publicly traceable, mismanagement and theft would be practically non-existent.
So as you can see, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology have the potential, if properly utilized to create a useful framework for a global scale UBI program.
Now that we’ve given you the ‘broad stroke’ on our case for using this tech to create a Universal Basic Income program, the question becomes…
Where are we today?
Blockchain Based UBI Projects
As of the writing of this article, there are currently three main blockchain based UBI projects. These projects are in various stages of development, deployment and functionality, but they are gaining popularity among individuals across the globe.
These blockchain and cryptocurrency UBI projects are Mannabase, SwiftDemand and Solidar.
Mannabase (MANNA) is longest running and arguably the most popular blockchain based UBI platform.
Founded in 2015 and set up as a non-profit foundation, Grant Foundation, Mannabase is a method of providing a Universal Basic Income to every person in the world.
The requirements for taking part in MANNA is prove you are a human being by completing their KYC. Once verified, you are not only allowed to invest in MANNA, their cryptocurrency, but the platform also provides a basic weekly income to every user.
Frankly, that alone makes this project great… but the benefits don’t stop there…
As we mentioned earlier, one of the current issues faced by both cryptocurrency as well as the idea of Universal Basic Income is that of mass adoption.
Mannabase has developed a referral program to help solve this challenge.
The MANNA community is continuously growing and more and more people are joining this blockchain based platform in order to get a basic income.
Created for the sole purpose of providing a Universal Basic Income to every individual, SwiftDemand stands for its purpose.
Four types of accounts currently exist: Swift Citizens, Entities, Delegated Nodes and Identity providers.
All these accounts play a crucial role in the management and distribution of Swifts (SwiftDemand currency).
SwiftDemand provides tokens (Swifts) to participants daily in order to help them get a basic income.
As of this writing, the daily distribution is set at 100 tokens, but that amount may change as the number of Swift citizens community grows.
These bots are easy to operate and you can interface with them in a chat box on these networks.
This allows participants in Solidar to freely use the currency to interact directly with merchants, thus providing for their needs.
Moreover, because of the direct interaction between merchant and consumer and the written proofs provided… dealers can completely trust the platform.
Where To From Here
The idea of Universal Basic Income at its core is to provide every person a basic amount of monies necessary to survive.
But, since the first mention of this idea centuries ago, the ability to adequately create such a plan on a large scale has been a challenge to say the least.
While UBI has garnered both support and opposition over the centuries, in recent history, there is a renewed sense of determination to create a program worthy of the title Universal Basic Income.
As a crossroad between humanity and technology seems to be approaching ever more quickly, perhaps that very technology can be the catalyst which provides the necessary infrastructure that ensure not only UBIs creation but growth and adoption.
Blockchain and cryptocurrency is just beginning to be explored as a means of fulfilling the financial and managerial demands of system of Universal Basic Income.
However, as the idea of UBI continues to increase and the mass adoption of cryptocurrency ensues the reality of these two ideas merging and helping create prosperity becomes a virtual certainty.
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