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Mark Zuckerberg calls for a universal basic income? Why and How? Is There Even Better Way Than UBI? What Do You Think?

Mark Zuckerberg Just Voiced His Support for Universal Basic Income

JD Lasica/Flickr

In Brief
  • Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Harvard’s commencement, saying that basic income is an “idea worth exploring.”
  • With his endorsement of UBI, Zuckerberg joins a growing list of experts and innovators who believe supporting basic human needs must precede innovation.

Meaningful Roles In Society

This week Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the latest class of Harvard graduates, offering advice about the future and inspiration to grow on. Among his ideas was the notion that universal basic income (UBI), a standard base “salary” for each member of society that can help meet our basic needs regardless of the work we do, is worth exploring.

UBI pilot programs are sprouting up all over the world, including one in Oakland, California sponsored by Y Combinator. Many are modeled in part after the State of Alaska’s long-term “Permanent Fund” which distributes a dividend to every resident so they can share in the wealth gleaned from the state’s natural resources equally.

While the successfulness of such initiatives can be analyzed several different ways, Zuckerberg emphasized to graduates the need for metrics that go deeper than standard economic measures — metrics that can help foster innovation.

“We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful,” Zuckerberg told the Harvard graduates and their guests. “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas.”

The Time Is Now

This idea that basic income supports more innovation as well as human rights is perhaps what has made it such a popular idea among Silicon Valley tech minds. In fact, this public endorsement from Zuckerberg is not all that cutting edge — he is one of the later proponents of UBI by Silicon Valley standards, joining the likes of Tesla’s Elon Musk, eBay’s Pierre Omidyar, and Y Combinator’s Sam Altman. Bill Gates agrees that UBI is a good idea, and that we’ll be ready for it soon.

Universal Basic Income: UBI Pilot Programs Around the World
Click to View Full Infographic

UBI isn’t just a Silicon Valley thing. Andy Stern, the President Emeritus of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), has recently written a book that sets out a detailed plan for making UBI work here in the U.S. Timotheus Höttges, the CEO of Germany’s largest telecommunications company, Deutsche Telekom (DT), also supports UBI because it supports social stability in the age of automation.

UBI pilot programs will hopefully show strengths and benefits of different strategies, and data from Alaska can suggest how such programs can survive the test of time. As pilot programs succeed — and early results seem to indicate that they will — expect more experts to endorse UBI.

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Mark Zuckerberg calls for a universal basic income amid rumours of presidential bid by Facebook founder

The idea would give anyone the space to try out new ideas

Everyone should be paid a universal basic income, Mark Zuckerberg has said.

The Facebook founder said that making sure everyone received basic pay would allow them to take more risks and try out new things, while knowing that they would still be able to afford the basic things they need to live.

The idea of a universal basic income, or UBI, has become popular among technologists and people in Silicon Valley. It allows for more redistributive policies and will be important when automation takes their jobs, they say.

Mr Zuckerberg suggested that the universal basic income would be part of a “new social contract for our generation”. He made the recommendation during a Harvard speech that many said looked as if he was planning to become president.

“We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful,” he said. “We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things.

“We’re going to change jobs many times, so we need affordable child care to get to work and health care that aren’t tied to one company. We’re all going to make mistakes, so we need a society that focuses less on locking us up or stigmatising us. And as technology keeps changing, we need to focus more on continuous education throughout our lives.

“And yes, giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn’t free. People like me should pay for it. Many of you will do well and you should, too.”

The speech – which concentrated on political and public policy issues – is just the latest event to lead to speculation that Mr Zuckerberg may be planning to launch a presidential campaign. He has been on a tour around various parts of the US meeting people and posting his policy recommendations for improving their lives, but has repeatedly denied that he is gearing up to try and lead the US.

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