As tech has grown, policy debates have become an important pastime. Today’s tech industry aspires to replace human drivers with self-driving cars, secretaries with AI assistants, permanent jobs with gigs — and as a result, the human impact of tech has become an everyday conversation.
No other idea is as emblematic of this as Universal Basic Income, a policy that would distribute a monthly sum to every adult regardless of their income or employment status.
The conversation is widespread. Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk have said that UBI may be desirable or necessary. Y-Combinator Research and Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes are running basic income studies. Tech-friendly presidential hopefuls Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang support the issue.
But should the average tech entrepreneur or investor support UBI? The answer is not entirely clear.
The good news is that the tech industry is deeply familiar with risk, which is an important component of arguments for UBI. The bad news: risk isn’t the whole story, and both positive and negative evidence for the policy are currently thin.
The role of risk
Entrepreneurs understand the risk component of UBI because it’s the same risk they take in starting companies. Many entrepreneurs start with savings or seed funding that reduce their downside risk — and it’s not hard for them to imagine that others lack these resources. A UBI could solve the issue.