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Universal Basic Income and Exploding Knowledge

We are living amongst the greatest democrtization of both knowledge and the means of production ever in history. You can start a web based business for a few hundred dollars in your “spare time”, even if you only have access to a hundred dollar chromebook.

This glibly skips over that both knowledge and a few hundred dollars are not accessible for many people in US and the wider world, but is still true. With hustsle and luck, it has never been easier for the poorest of the poor to have access to the same business creation tools as many of the richest of the rich. A billionaire’s iphone / laptop is the same as or very similiar to mine in performance. The fortune 500’s AWS server is my AWS server. Big music labels Pro tools is my Pro tools.

The most important difference is not in our tools, but in how we spend our time. Reading Nassim Taleb’s Antifragile, he makes an argument that most applied advances in soceity are not made by focused researchers but practioners and gifted amateurs — people with the professional alignment or personal ability and inclunation to tinker on the edge of the possible.

If that argument is true, universal basic income may be the greatest way to unlock human potential and unleash a torrent of invention ever in history. It will enable the largest and most empowered group of people in history to avoid the cognitive traps of poverty and the endless struggle against subsistence.

The average recipient may respond as welfare opponents fear — consuming only, living off government largesse. But the gains are made at the margins, not the average. The gains from going from Zero to One, as a few million people tinker at the edge of human knowledge, directed by their curiosity.

Many justify UBI on the grounds of effeciency, pointing at the gains from the muchh simpler implementation. Many argue for it in terms of morality. I can’t help but think of it in terms of upside opportunity. It seems a small investment to make compared to the potential gains over time.