William Gibson said that “the future is here — it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” One part of the future is universal basic income (UBI). And in a recent Breaking Smart newsletter, Steven Moody shows us that it’s already here, in the form of lifestyle design.
Lifestyle design is a term coined by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Work Week. One of the tenets of lifestyle design is creating a micro-business which generates enough cash flow to cover your living expenses. The aim is to create an income stream that requires little effort to operate and maintain.
Why? So you can attain freedom. Which is also the aim of a UBI. Freedom from work for work’s sake. No longer would you have to have a job just to pay your rent.
It’s an interesting, powerful idea. And it’s certainly not without it’s complications and risks. But in my mind, there’s one crucial question that UBI raises. Everyone who would be a recipient of a UBI would have to answer it. The question is this:
What will you do when you don’t have to do anything?
The point of UBI is that it frees you from employment which is only undertaken out of economic necessity. But if that necessity no longer exists, you don’t have to do anything. And that is the biggest challenge that the implementation of a UBI will face.
People are different. Most people will see UBI as an opportunity. But the nature of those opportunities will differ greatly.
At one end, you have people who would exploit UBI and use it to fund a life of depravity. As a means to sponge off society and live a life filled with addiction and indulgence. You could argue that here in the UK, we have a forerunner to this. Benefit frauds. What are these people trying to do if not create a UBI for themselves?
At the other end of the spectrum? You have people who would use a UBI as a springboard. As a device that allows them to enhance their lives. That allows them to be more creative. More innovative. More productive. To provide more value to society. UBI would allow them to replace mundane work with work that is meaningful to themselves and others.
Where you sit on the spectrum is easy to figure out. Ask yourself what do you do with the spare time you have now? Do you use it or do you waste it?
Chances are, however you use your spare time now will be magnified by a UBI. And that’s what makes it such an exciting, scary idea. There will be people who abuse it. But there will be people who use it to propel our world forwards.