Universal Basic Income and the Question No One Asks

Universal Basic Income and the Question No One Asks

At no other time in the history of the world has so much wealth been concentrated in the hands of so few – and amassed in so short amount of time. More worrisome still is the amount of power and global reach of those few, especially considering that their basic stock in trade is surveillance (Former Facebook executive says Google, Facebook are ‘surveillance states’ and risk more regulation).

Social Capital CEO Chamath Palihapitiya, the aforementioned Facebook executive, is more bullish on Amazon, as, in his opinion, the online retailer has more competition than Google and Facebook. Um, did he not take into consideration Alexa, or the fact that Amazon Web Services is now authorized to host the US Department of Defense’s most sensitive data, including top secret Pentagon and NSA information.

Ok, this story hit the press the day after his prognostications were published, but we’re sure that this was known in circles prior to the announcement, what to speak of the fact that Alexa has been used as a witness in a murder trial, so how is Amazon not part of the surveillance state?

There has been a huge hue and cry in the tech press lately about the unbridled power and reach of the behemoth tech companies – Facebook and Google in particular. Says Bloomberg, Break Up the Tech Giants? No, Just Level the Field: Facebook, Google and Uber should be held to the same rules as their older rivals, while Buzzfeed observes that There’s Blood In The Water In Silicon Valley, and Steve Bannon and Bernie Sanders both want big tech treated as, in Bannon’s words “public utilities.”

“The new spotlight on these companies doesn’t come out of nowhere,” says Buzzfeed. “They sit, substantively, at the heart of the biggest and most pressing issues facing the United States, and often stand on the less popular side of those: automation and inequality, trust in public life, privacy and security. They make the case that growth and transformation are public goods — but the public may not agree.”

We’re always more curious about what’s not discussed and that does warrant scrutiny. In this case, it’s Universal Basic Income and the fact that so many of the tech illuminati, including Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, are extremely vocal proponents of UBI. In fact, The Guardian noted in an article entitled, Why Silicon Valley is embracing universal basic income, “In a pilot study influential incubator Y Combinator will hand over cash monthly to 100 families in Oakland, California. What’s UBI’s payoff for tech entrepreneurs?”

“Rather than steer technology towards social progress by promoting projects that contribute to public benefit and human flourishing – not just reflect the desires of privileged groups – Silicon Valley elites can shake off critics by pointing to UBI as the solution, and one that does not restrict their profit motive.”

That may be part of it, but neither the math nor the supposed concern behind the pro-UBI movement, adds up. UBI is the proposed solution for the so-called coming robot/AI apocalypse, and the elites want to ensure that people and families can afford basic needs, given the paucity of jobs that will be available. Were this truly one of their overarching concerns, why do they petition so strongly for increases in the numbers of H1-Bs, rather consider hiring home-grown talent?

And how would UBI, or as we prefer to call it, a global welfare state, further companies whose profits derive from sales and advertising?

As the Foundation for Economic Education points out in the must-read Top Three Arguments against a Universal Basic Income, “Adopting a UBI would increase the state’s power rather than decrease it.”

Never mind the fact that it’s unsustainable.

Information is not only power: it’s coin of the realm in the surveillance economy, and no one has more information on humans globally than the Facebooks and Googles of the world. And let’s face it: Apple and Amazon are no exceptions. Make no mistake about it: they’re all in the surveillance business, and given the fact that Amazon now has access to extremely sensitive information, and that Apple’s New “FaceID” Could Be A Powerful Mass Spying Tool, we can only wonder what’s going on and what’s next.

“Why do the wealthy and elite support seemingly radical social programs?,” The Guardian asks. “Have they grown enlightened and concerned with the plight of everyone else? Is this a mea culpa designed to make exploitation more bearable, a bit of comfort to soften the crushing pressure of life? Or is it a stealthy way for them to backdoor their own politics and values, while also protecting their positions in society?”

It’s not that we have answers either, but asking the right questions is always a good first step, and of course, the very first question one needs to always ask is, “Who benefits the most?” Ah, there’s a good place to start, as we go onward and forward.

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