22 votes

Y Combinator plans to start doling out $60 million next year to study universal basic income

33 comments

  1. [17]
    Comment deleted by author
    Link
    1. Catt
      Link Parent
      Yeah the amount definitely seems really low. It might work if more social structures are already in place, starting with affordable housing, but otherwise I'm not sure what they will find.

      Yeah the amount definitely seems really low. It might work if more social structures are already in place, starting with affordable housing, but otherwise I'm not sure what they will find.

      9 votes
    2. KnopeWyatt2020
      Link Parent
      Actually, studying the effect of the Alaska Permanent Fund has shown that even small amounts like that enable people to work more. It doesn't replace the income from a job, but rather helps...

      Actually, studying the effect of the Alaska Permanent Fund has shown that even small amounts like that enable people to work more. It doesn't replace the income from a job, but rather helps cushion setbacks and lets people get out of a hole, afford transportation, etc.

      https://qz.com/1205591/a-universal-basic-income-experiment-in-alaska-shows-employment-didnt-drop/

      9 votes
    3. [5]
      StellarV
      Link Parent
      I wonder if the idea is to supplement that to people who are already employed in minimum wage jobs. The article doesn't really go into much detail about the requirements.

      I wonder if the idea is to supplement that to people who are already employed in minimum wage jobs. The article doesn't really go into much detail about the requirements.

      6 votes
      1. [5]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. [3]
          Gaywallet
          Link Parent
          It's cheaper and has more reach to supplement incomes rather than replace them. If you can show that the benefit is more than the cost, you can make case for introducing legislation. This has to...

          It's cheaper and has more reach to supplement incomes rather than replace them. If you can show that the benefit is more than the cost, you can make case for introducing legislation.

          This has to happen in steps, or it won't happen at all. The opposition is just too great and there are very few individuals who are interested in funding the research to whether it makes the changes we can only hope it does.

          4 votes
          1. [2]
            Parliament
            Link Parent
            I agree about incremental change, but couldn't companies that don't pay their employees a living wage use this as an excuse to continue not paying their employees a living wage? I can hear it now:...

            I agree about incremental change, but couldn't companies that don't pay their employees a living wage use this as an excuse to continue not paying their employees a living wage? I can hear it now: see, it's okay to pay them a pittance because the free market is bridging the gap!

            This is obviously cynical speculation at a very early stage of Y Combinator's initiative, but I'm still curious what the results will be.

            7 votes
            1. Gaywallet
              Link Parent
              Very likely, but if it's accompanied by appropriate taxation (heavier on the rich end), it will likely do more to close the wage gap than allowing the free market to determine wages (as it is...

              Very likely, but if it's accompanied by appropriate taxation (heavier on the rich end), it will likely do more to close the wage gap than allowing the free market to determine wages (as it is currently) with minimal to no government intervention.

              3 votes
        2. StellarV
          Link Parent
          True, it definitely seems like a flawed study from the start.

          True, it definitely seems like a flawed study from the start.

    4. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      Thank you for pointing out the economic context of this amount. I did a very quick conversion from USD to AUD, and this amount seems to be about the same as our unemployment benefit - which many...

      Thank you for pointing out the economic context of this amount. I did a very quick conversion from USD to AUD, and this amount seems to be about the same as our unemployment benefit - which many many people have pointed out is below our poverty line in Australia.

      Therefore, these questions...

      Are people happy and fulfilled? Do people, without the fear of not being able to eat, accomplish far more and benefit society far more?

      ... will not be answered by this study. They'll find that people can't afford to live on this payment, will still stress about covering basic living expenses, and probably won't be happy or fulfilled or accomplish much.

      Most of the studies of UBI I've read about seem to have this same flaw. While UBI is supposedly about giving people enough money to cover basic living expenses (but not enough to live in luxury, of course), the studies all seem to have given people too little money for those expenses. Therefore, the results are being predetermined: UBI doesn't work.

      5 votes
    5. [4]
      dubteedub
      Link Parent
      Sam Altman is absolutely a completely oblivious and out of touch techbrotarian. From his role at Y Combinator, he is also a lead investor in Reddit and is one of two people that have been publicly...

      Sam Altman is absolutely a completely oblivious and out of touch techbrotarian.

      From his role at Y Combinator, he is also a lead investor in Reddit and is one of two people that have been publicly acknowledged as serving on Reddit's Board, the other being Alexis Ohanian (/u/kn0thing).

      Here is an example of some of Sam's other comments, notably defending hate speech, and specifically slurs about gay people, because it somehow advances science.

      Restricting speech leads to restricting ideas and therefore restricted innovation—the most successful societies have generally been the most open ones.

      To get the really good ideas, we need to tolerate really bad and wacky ideas too.

      This is uncomfortable, but it’s possible we have to allow people to say disparaging things about gay people if we want them to be able to say novel things about physics. Of course we can and should say that ideas are mistaken, but we can’t just call the person a heretic. We need to debate the actual idea.

      Taken from Sam Altman's blog - http://blog.samaltman.com/e-pur-si-muove

      4 votes
      1. [3]
        sublime_aenima
        Link Parent
        Defending free speech has zero to do with UBI or anything else. You're just throwing up a strawman to say he's an idiot when it comes to freedom of speech therefore he's an idiot when it comes to...

        Defending free speech has zero to do with UBI or anything else. You're just throwing up a strawman to say he's an idiot when it comes to freedom of speech therefore he's an idiot when it comes to UBI. They're no where in the same realm and it's unlikely that he's the one running the study anyways, he's probably just the financier.

        9 votes
        1. [2]
          dubteedub
          Link Parent
          I am more pointing to the fact that he is a clueless put of touch techbrotarian.

          I am more pointing to the fact that he is a clueless put of touch techbrotarian.

          3 votes
          1. toobsock
            Link Parent
            The New Yorker did a long piece on him, and he seemed very intelligent. I wouldn’t be so quick to call him clueless. And I don’t think it’s completely obvious that limiting hate speech will make...

            The New Yorker did a long piece on him, and he seemed very intelligent. I wouldn’t be so quick to call him clueless. And I don’t think it’s completely obvious that limiting hate speech will make for a better society 20 years from now. We might be breeding more alt-right youth by dividing ourselves into ideologically homogenous groups. I was bullied in school and romantically undesirable. A place like 4chan might have appealed to me because at the time I had some unhealthy views towards women. Now after being in the 4chan echo chamber, I might develop unhealthy views towards minorities and start using the word “cuck”, and I’ve got a deeper hole to dig out of.

            But I also like being on tildes and not having to read racist shit.

            2 votes
    6. [2]
      jgb
      Link Parent
      A real world implementation of basic income would also start at a level below that needed to subsist. Nonetheless, this is still a lot of money and will surely impact the behaviour of the...

      A real world implementation of basic income would also start at a level below that needed to subsist. Nonetheless, this is still a lot of money and will surely impact the behaviour of the participants, so I think the study will still be valuable. I don't think the YC guys are stupid, I just don't think they put enough thought into wording their statement properly.

      2 votes
      1. [2]
        Comment deleted by author
        Link Parent
        1. jgb
          Link Parent
          I think the idea is potentially that in tandem with almost any form of employment this income becomes livable. Note that the quote was from Altman's original idea for the project, and potentially...

          I think the idea is potentially that in tandem with almost any form of employment this income becomes livable. Note that the quote was from Altman's original idea for the project, and potentially budgetary realities have scaled back his ambitions somewhat as he's begun to move from theory into practice. I don't think he'd say the same thing about the study today.

          I agree that a true UBI provides a 'living wage'. I think these studies are proto-UBIs - you can't live on them, but they have some of the effects of a true UBI such as:

          • losing employment becomes a (somewhat) less terrifying prospect because it doesn't instantly kill your entire flow of income

          • participants have a small amount more flexibility to persue education or entrepreneurship. Nowhere near as much as a Silicon Valley brogrammer, but more than if they were subsisting on employment income alone (whereby they would have effectively no flexibility in this regard).

          3 votes
    7. Diet_Coke
      Link Parent
      Depending on what they mean by low income, these folks may be receiving other benefits. One of the appeals of UBI is that it makes more specific benefits and their administration costs obsolete....

      Depending on what they mean by low income, these folks may be receiving other benefits. One of the appeals of UBI is that it makes more specific benefits and their administration costs obsolete. But since these other safety nets do exist, UBI only needs to supplement them.

      This is not to say don't fuck rich people because fuck them, but using a relatively low amount like $1000/mo might make some sense in certain cases. Tests of UBI should be encouraged because it is an idea whose time has come, and making it a robust and well-maintained system is the only protection from a dystopian future.

      1 vote
  2. [4]
    Catt
    Link
    I love that they are trying out and studying UBI. However, whenever I see numbers like these, I can't help but wonder who's on crazy pills - me or them? I know I can live on less, maybe...

    I love that they are trying out and studying UBI.

    Under the plan, a thousand people would get $1,000 per month and the other 2,000 would get $50 per month to serve as a control group.

    However, whenever I see numbers like these, I can't help but wonder who's on crazy pills - me or them?

    I know I can live on less, maybe significantly less, than what I am on now, but this amount seems really low, especially given where they are.

    Just hoping they're not going to find negative results and give up because they haven't actually met the threshold for this to work as intended.

    11 votes
    1. Neverland
      Link Parent
      I did the math on how much San Francisco spends on homeless and realized that they spend around $37k per recorded homeless person per year. That would make a heck of a UBI experiment, until you...

      I did the math on how much San Francisco spends on homeless and realized that they spend around $37k per recorded homeless person per year.

      That would make a heck of a UBI experiment, until you had a new 100k new "homeless" people the next year looking for a hand out.

      data source

      On the other hand, 37K in SF is like 12K in many other parts of the country, even some parts of California.

      6 votes
    2. [2]
      clerical_terrors
      Link Parent
      a lot of hand-wringing around UBI's imagined apocalypse scenario stems from the fear that without proper motivation people will not go out and find work. To me this reads like them trying to come...

      a lot of hand-wringing around UBI's imagined apocalypse scenario stems from the fear that without proper motivation people will not go out and find work. To me this reads like them trying to come up with a compromise (setting the baseline so low you'd still need to find work) to try and quell those fears and force people to keep working.

      Of course, as many people have pointed out, this just makes it an incredibly bad case study in and of itself.

      4 votes
      1. Catt
        Link Parent
        I can see that line of "logic" though I don't agree. Hopefully there will be some useful results from this.

        To me this reads like them trying to come up with a compromise (setting the baseline so low you'd still need to find work) to try and quell those fears and force people to keep working.

        I can see that line of "logic" though I don't agree. Hopefully there will be some useful results from this.

  3. [2]
    Oshawa
    Link
    Canada has had a UBI trial going on for a bit too: Ontario Basic Income

    Canada has had a UBI trial going on for a bit too: Ontario Basic Income

    3 votes
  4. [3]
    DarenTx
    Link
    I have no idea how a universal basic income would be funded. The math doesn't seem to work out. Where is the money coming from?

    I have no idea how a universal basic income would be funded. The math doesn't seem to work out. Where is the money coming from?

    2 votes
    1. spit-evil-olive-tips
      Link Parent
      By taxing the fucking rich. This really isn't that complicated. The top of the wealth/income distribution in the US has amounts of money that are simply mind-boggling. For one example, the median...

      Where is the money coming from?

      By taxing the fucking rich.

      This really isn't that complicated. The top of the wealth/income distribution in the US has amounts of money that are simply mind-boggling.

      For one example, the median worker at Amazon made $28,446 per year in 2017. Jeff Bezos makes that much money every 9 seconds.

      10 votes
    2. Algernon_Asimov
      Link Parent
      I'm no expert, but I've read various opinions about how we should shift the tax base from individual income to things like: Consumption. Land. Resources (mining, forestry). Pollution. Corporations.

      I'm no expert, but I've read various opinions about how we should shift the tax base from individual income to things like:

      • Consumption.

      • Land.

      • Resources (mining, forestry).

      • Pollution.

      • Corporations.

      3 votes
  5. [7]
    Neverland
    Link
    Meta: I wonder if they have been removing this from HN, as I cannot find it posted there.

    Meta: I wonder if they have been removing this from HN, as I cannot find it posted there.

    1. [2]
      Deimos
      Link Parent
      There was this post yesterday: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17851511 It has far more comments than votes though, which is a factor that HN's ranking uses to push the post down the ranks...

      There was this post yesterday: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=17851511

      It has far more comments than votes though, which is a factor that HN's ranking uses to push the post down the ranks very quickly, so it probably disappeared before long.

      6 votes
      1. Neverland
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Oh, thanks. When I used google to search the last 2 days on HN I used ubi and universal basic income - didn't know it was just “basic income” now. I did’t see the Gizmodo story posted at all by...

        Oh, thanks. When I used google to search the last 2 days on HN I used ubi and universal basic income - didn't know it was just “basic income” now.

        I did’t see the Gizmodo story posted at all by looking at site= on HN.

        edit: spelling

    2. [4]
      RapidEyeMovement
      Link Parent
      Why would they remove it?

      Why would they remove it?

      1 vote
      1. [3]
        Neverland
        Link Parent
        Maybe because it's not the official statement on the matter or something. I believe that they heavily moderate conversations about YC companies for example. But I could be wrong.

        Maybe because it's not the official statement on the matter or something. I believe that they heavily moderate conversations about YC companies for example. But I could be wrong.

        7 votes
        1. [2]
          jgb
          Link Parent
          One of the ugliest aspects of HN is the deliberate cultivation of a personality cult around Graham, Altman, and YC as an organisation.

          One of the ugliest aspects of HN is the deliberate cultivation of a personality cult around Graham, Altman, and YC as an organisation.

          8 votes
  6. RapidEyeMovement
    Link
    The real question is where do I sign up?

    The real question is where do I sign up?