Monthly Archives: July 2014

The other side of Basic Income: Basic Jobs

Man Fig Toys Pokes Fun At Blade Money Euro by Gerd Altmann

Basic Income has been the talk of the town in a lot of circles recently, thanks to a handful of nationally publicized articles and reaching the front-page of social media hodgepodge, Reddit.  What sparked my interest in writing about the BI debate was the 15th International Basic Income Congress which took place in Montreal from June 27-29th, 2014.  To see some videos of talks you may have missed, look no further.

Unconditional Basic Income (UBI or BI) is an income to be received by every adult person without conditions.  Single, married, pregnant, employed, retired, etc. 

The BIEN congress is the largest congress of its kind taking place in the world today. While listening to scholars, professors and well-researched activists, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quality of the research that was being conveyed through many of the talks. It is a testament to BI’s enormous potential that lifelong academics and educators would dedicate themselves for months or years to their subject matter. What stood out the most to me is how multi-disciplined the presentations were.  They took approaches from the healthcare point of view; that providing people with basic income was the next logical step of healthcare.  And that providing everyone with a basic income was simply a government providing its citizenry with basic dignity.  There were others who approached it from an economic point of view and tackled the issues of paying for a basic income (yes, it can be feasible).  And lastly, the ones that I personally found most interesting: the jobs point of view.

The Controversy

What happens to all the jobs when people are paid whether they go to work or not? Aren’t people just going to sit home and play video games all day?

Firstly, the jobs that are paying the lowest wages are rarely fulfilling careers.  Note, jobs are something you do for money.  Careers are something you build.  If Basic Income were to be enacted, the people who would be happy with $12000 or $15000 or $20000 per year and would rather not work a job are better off not working a job.

If people are working because the economic system forces them to, and pays them below what they feel they deserve but they are forced to accept it to even barely scrape by, then our economic system isn’t functioning for the population, it’s functioning for itself.  Basic Income is an economic systemic equalizer.

Unemployment gives employers power over the employees.  If there was 100% employment, an employee can leave a job and take another, but because we have a constant rate of unemployment, the power rests in the hands of the employer.

Please watch “The Way The Eagle Shits” for a hilarious/tragic/cynical description on that subject.

 

Now, let’s assume then that our BI recipient is now someone that wants to sit at home and do nothing productive.  So?  Who qualifies what is productive and what isn’t?  Right now we have a system that takes care of the elderly with pensions because they worked during their lives so they deserve to rest.  We take care of those without jobs, but just barely, and punish them if they earn too much with the welfare trap .  We take care of families, because if you’re having a child, that’s a lot of responsibility and the government should step in to help… But what about the rest of us?  What about those that do not want children, that are earning minimum wage because they can’t earn more?  What about the entrepreneurs that are forced into nonsensical jobs because they are not given the liberty to work on their innovative projects?  How many more self-starters would we have under the BI system?  We can’t even begin to imagine the answers to these questions, nor their unintended consequences – be they positive or negative – until we try.

The system is unbalanced towards specific subsets of individuals for a variety of reasons.  BI could potentially help to balance things out.

So where do the jobs go?

We needn’t go further than places like Craigslist and Taskrabbit to see what people can do and are already doing for each other.  Ask everyone you know if they would get a massage every other week if they could afford it.  Find out how many people wish they could speak to a good therapist but can’t afford to foot the bill.

Under BI, I foresee an almost immediate fluid transition to an economy of care.  We spend so much time organizing our own lives, now we’d have the opportunity to share that time.  We would move towards paying one another for cleaning and cooking services.  We would dedicate more funding to our personal well-being by attending exercise classes, eating locally grown healthy food and having a much more sensible work/life balance.  This can also spawn a lot more community collaboration through the exchange of local services, the community will be more tight-knit and interested in the collective environment.  And then we have those of us that are more primed to build the future than just simply live in somebody else’s.  Let the social entrepreneurs who aren’t profit driven thrive! 40% of the workforce will be entrepreneurs by the year 2020.  We need to be ready for that instead of allowing our population to fall deeper into poverty.

Free the people’s time up and we will fill it with useful endeavors and support one another.

The Sharing Economy that transitions us there.

When history ebooks are written about the sharing economy, Couchsurfing will have at least one chapter dedicated to its significance.  While ebay may have popularized the reference, Couchsurfing created a sharing meritocracy (power based on merit).  If you have positive references, that gives you value within the system and allows you to benefit from the sharing.

Nearly a decade later, TaskRabbit, AirBnB, and Uber pop up.  All of which give you an opportunity to cut out professionals, hotels, and car purchasing while giving their companies a cut.  While this is beneficial to the individual, these systems are only valuable because of the people that use them.  These systems belong to the people and the open source movement will generate public & decentralized non-profit solutions that are based on these models.  That is to say, the value that is currently being centralized will begin to be redistributed into the local economy.

And that decentralization of value is one of the primary goals of my personal project, an aspiring open-source meritocratic exchange marketplace called the Jack of all Trades Universe.  We are designing a platform for a neighborhood to share, trade and exchange all of their goods and services any way they choose.  So you won’t have to go further than a few blocks to work.  And who will you be helping?  A neighbor.  Work will create tangible change right before your eyes for somebody in your community.

And JoatU (that’s the acronym) doesn’t just put you in touch with people living close by, it encourages community contributions.  It gives points to people who do the jobs that the community requests.  If your community wants a publicly accessible garden, the job is listed, and those that plant it will be rewarded with points for their contributions.  These points can then be traded in for other people’s services or goods.

There are many more tools needed to obtain a society where people can work doing what they love.  Basic Income, Open Source technology and a more accessible Sharing Economy are still novel concepts.  It is up to all of us to take them and shape them into the future that we want to live in.

Jamie Klinger is the founder of JoatU which is currently raising funds for its alpha release.  Please share and give generously.

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What I learned at the HopeX Hacker Conference

HopeX is the tenth anniversary of the Hope (Hackers of Planet Earth) conference.  A ‘hacker’ in this context refers to “someone who is curious and creative, who seeks to understand how things work, especially complicated systems.” (HopeX FAQ)

Undoubtedly, when you put together two thousand curious and creative minds, you can get some impressive results.

Not Your Typical “Buy!  Buy!  Buy!” Conference  Booths  

Not all conferences are created equal.  Some of them are endless vender booths selling useless wares.  HopeX did everything right in this regard.  The booths were primarily knowledge-based, non-profit focused, and DIY promoting.  From lock-picking sets, to the EFF  (Electronic Frontier Foundation), to a $999 Bitcoin ATM w/Skyhook, to the ACLU  (American Civil Liberties Union), to a logo removal service, every booth and attending presenter drew us in with valuable and intriguing information . .

The Specialized Talks

What more could you ask for?  From the hyper-specialized to the broadly generalized, there were talks for all types of hackers.  I  was fortunate to have had the opportunity to give my presentation on community-based economics via the You Track; an appropriate match for JoatU as these were  self-organized talks in a more intimate community-oriented venue.  And then there were the 5-minute lightning talks too!  What a great way to hear a fast-paced succinct presentation.  Information overload (in a good way)!

The Community is Strong in This One

The talks in between the talks really emphasized the value of this conference.  Being able to meet with so many curious people can really fill you with inspiration.  I received a lot of great feedback about my project from all kinds of people living all over the world; I couldn’t be happier.

The volunteers, the everyday attendees, and the humble speakers were the perfect trifecta  for a nearly perfectly executed conference.

Ten Interesting Takeaways 

10) If someone is overdosing on cocaine, get them to overdose on valium until paramedics arrive!  It could save their life.* (Bringing Down the Biological System: How Poisons Hack the Body – Jennifer Ortiz)

 

9) While science is great for solving certain problems, to think that it can solve all the problems all the time is just plain dumb. (Solve the Hard Problem – Gillian (Gus) Andrews)

 

8) Sometimes going with the moral decision (John Locke) can destroy your economy. (Hacking Money, from Alexander the Great to Zerocoin – Finn Brunton)

 

7) If you flash a rainbow colored LED penis to the audience, they’re going to have a hard time regaining focus.

 

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Also, it’s important we recognize our biases, be respectful of people’s boundaries (e.g. Don’t touch!) and do everything we can to destroy the rape culture that we exist within! (The Sex Geek as Culture Hacker – Kristen Stubbs)

 

6) Self-Publishing will be more work, but it can really pay off.  Not to mention, you are in control of your own content which is especially valuable if you’re using this content to teach. (Self Publishing Success – John Huntington) *Full Talk*

 

5) A lot of talks spoke about the need for user-friendly cryptography.  Minilock is incredibly simple-to-use file encryption software (Usable Crypto – New Progress in Web Cryptography – Nadim Kobeissi)

 

4) We are closer than you can imagine to smart spaces.  A room that can sense how many people are in it and adjust the air conditioning automatically.  Or to know how many chairs are in there to better plan your Edward Snowdon talk.  There is technology that can let the environment (or others) be informed that you exist and you can choose to share more or less information depending on who they are.  The tech will be ubiquitous and as popular as barcodes in a decade or two (or less?).  I’m interested to see where this can go and to live in smart environments with Reelyactive. (YouTrack – Reelyactive – Jeff Dungen)

 

3) The Repair Movement is making a resurgence as being tested and applied in real life by numerous innovative individuals and groups.  When Sandra Goldmark rented a storefront and opened the doors to repairing broken objects, she brought with her some of her own broken objects just in case it was a slow first day.  It wasn’t.  The business, while not hugely profitable, has thus far been sustainable! On top of this, we have the transition towns movement which are working to bring our communities into the 21st century with permaculture practices and JoatU (my project) working to link it all together! (The Repair Movement – Sandra Goldmark; Michael Banta; Vincent Lai; Miriam Dym; Tiffany Strauchs Rad)

 

2) According to Robert Steele, an inordinate amount of conspiracy theories are conspiracy facts.  As an outsider with a limited amount of information it’s tough to know which ones, but it seems clear that more than we initially acknowledge have hidden information.  Go figure.  On a more positive note, he is an extremely strong supporter of the open-source movement and proposed that the CIA use a more open methodology for information gathering.  He obviously doesn’t work there anymore.  Read more about his open source revolution. And one of the biggest reveals he made, he expects the US to stand up and say no more when the pedophilia rings and sex-slavery intertwined in US government are revealed. (Spy Improv: Ask me Anything – Robert Steele)

 

1) ‘We need to know how governments act to know how much we need to scrutinize their actions.’  It only makes sense that to be a fair judge, the citizens need to be informed.  Forget the fact that the public education system is a joke, on top of that, the most damning evidence that breaks the US constitution is held in secret.  This is an unacceptable practice in a democracy. (A Conversation with Edward Snowdon)

Summary

All in all, I came away with a wonderful experience, new friends, great knowledge and about 42 pairs of Trip Glasses.

*Information taken from a HopeX talk does not guarantee results and encourages independent research.

JoatU Relaunches its campaign! $3500 to goal!

Click here to share and help JoatU reach the masses!

Click here to go to our crowdfunding page!

Since launching a crowdfunding campaign and travelling from Montreal to BC to California and across to New Orleans, I have learned a lot about how JoatU is perceived across a variety of cities, towns, villages and communities.  We have found new allies in specific locations including Toronto, Regina, Kamloops, Vancouver, San Francisco and New Orleans.  And we have picked up new talent onto our team with experience working with Couchsurfing.org.  After two months on the road and across two vast countries we have learned so much that will help JoatU flourish in the long-term.

However, our focus on building one-on-one relationships meant that the campaign necessary to reach the masses were not organized in the way they needed to be. share my thoughts as to why exactly I believe this has happened, following up with what we plan to do about it. Our original goal was to raise $25,000, but at this pace, our original goal is now unrealistic.

I would like to  share my thoughts with you as to why this has happened, and  what we plan to do about it.

Network - Drawn by Michael McConnell

Network – Drawn by Michael McConnell

1)     JoatU Alpha isn’t built yet. Soliciting funding for a broad software project is ambitious.  Moreoever, we do not havea public test version to convince potential backers/donors/ supporters .  For example, Loomio was able to raise over $100,000 after having thousands of people and organizations test their initial release.  Their software was built, tested, and learned by a strong community of team members, who then went out and  raised what they needed to take it to the next level.

2)     We need to focus our marketing.  Who is JoatU going to be good for?  Is it for freelancers?  Yes.  Retired people?  Absolutely.  Semi-retired?  Them too.  Students?  If they have time.  So, JoatU is for everyone?  Potentially.  This is a huge strength when you look at our potential growth and a huge failure when you try to market it like that.  JoatU is a broad concept that has plenty of potential applications and can apply to nearly everyone…one day.  For today, that’s too much.  Even if your product is for everyone, not choosing to narrow in on a specific segment is shooting yourself in the foot.  Who do you want your primary adopters to be?  Now market to them.  I see community organizations as the greatest initial beneficiaries of JoatU, so now that I’m back in Montreal, they’ll be our first stop.

3)     How does JoatU stack up against other resource-sharing sites?  JoatU is more easily explained in context. When I present JoatU to  many different groups with a wide variety of experiences and educations, you get incredibly varied perspectives.  The animated video does a great job of explaining how JoatU works, but for someone to wrap their mind around the idea of ‘what JoatU is’ or to imagine how it could facilitate their lives is a whole other level.

For a list of free-association first responses to my explanation of JoatU, see: Craigslist, Marxism, Socialism, Couchsurfing, timebanks, Kibbutzes.

4) Execution is everything.  We think our spin on this concept is amazing, but our success or failure depends on the execution.  We have received many valid inputs about how to go about doing this. Each person imagines a different form of execution.  The optimist sees a lot, the realist a bit less, and the pessimist, that it won’t work at all.

 

After speaking with one of the founders of IndieGogo, Danae Ringelmann in Montreal about crowdfunding, she told me one thing that really stuck.  For the first year of Indiegogo, crowdfunding was a novel concept, and all she did was educate people on what crowdfunding was.  Not how great Indiegogo was or all of its capabilities.  Just ‘Crowdfunding 101’.

So our goal is to boil the sharing economy concept down to its core and promote social capital (as compared to financial capital) and JoatU as a means for people to build that social capital.

“Social Capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups.” – Wikipedia

5)     So why Crowdfund to Crowdsource?!? P2P (peer-to-peer) systems have been an interest of mine for as long as I’ve known about them (about 12 years).  I love the concept of collective collaboration.  However, in my mind, I might actually be living a few years into the future where bleeding edge concepts are only cutting edge concepts.  My idea in allowing the crowdfunders the opportunity to be a part of the process in allocating the funds itself to get JoatU built was in allowing for a horizontal ownership of responsibility throughout the organization.  With JoatU, I am trying to generate a ‘do-it-yourself’ economic platform for communities, so why should I have all the fun in shaping it?  I wanted to crowdfund the money and then pool the knowledge of the funders to help determine the best use for the money.  I wanted the people donating to the cause to become a part of the process itself.

While this has a lot of potential, ceding this much control without having a more complete structure of organization leaves too much in the air and isn’t easy enough for contributors to latch onto. Given my central role to the project, it is all the more apparent that I must steer the ship until I have confidence in a team of people with whom I have complete confidence. If I don’t build a proper foundation for the team to work from, the project’s capacity for change can overwhelm the group.  The foundation needs a strong ground floor to stand on.

We are still going to be using a loomio for the funders who have paid for that perk however and it is still available if you’d like to be a part of this group!

5)     $25,000? Call it ambition.  Call it chutzpah.  Call it foolishness.  Call it whatever you want.  A variety of programmers/organizations have given me different figures to work from to have a functional version of JoatU built.  This seemed like a realistic figure to cover the costs of development.  But without any testing grounds; without simple versions to work from, we can’t know what we should be changing to suit the needs of the users.  Asking friends, family, and the general public to fund an untested project to the tune of $25,000 might have been too much to ask for right off the bat.

6)     Cross-country Awareness & Crowdfunding Campaign is an enormous project in it’s own rite. We had about 20 people throw their hat into the JoatU ring to help put together this crowdfunding campaign.  Unfortunately, as CEO, Human Resource Manager & Customer Relations all wrapped into one, I sometimes forget which hat I’m wearing at a given time.  Until I can find part-time volunteers willing to dedicate 10 hours/week to JoatU towards a role and not just a specific task, I’ll have to keep wearing all the hats and remain vigilant in keeping an online presence running during the campaign itself at all times.  In other words, for any campaigns, I have to dedicate myself to be online just about all day every day.

Now here’s the good news!

Exchange - Drawn by Michael McConnell

Exchange – Drawn by Michael McConnell

1)     JoatU Alpha is currently being built in Ruby! Since the launch of the campaign, all it took was one particularly friend (thanks Bobby!) sharing it on his wall and *poof* we hook a talented programmer who was an early developer of Couchsurfing (the online sharing economy innovator).

2)     JoatU’s marketing will develop focus.  It’s important to acknowledge that we can’t go after everyone all at once.  It’s time to go after the people that want to be using JoatU right away.  Social progressives, local vegetable growers & producers, talented freelancers, the DIY community and part-time skilled trades.

3)     Food brings people together.  Going after a full supply chain and getting them hooked into a local JoatU community could be an incredible starting point for the organization.  If we can find a farmer, supplier, and distributor all willing to join the system, we could easily provide supplementary vegetables to a very local community in exchange for community involvement.

4)     Local is everything.  JoatU’s goal is to focus incredibly locally so that we can more efficiently make trades within our communities.  While our search for developers and volunteers is global, it seems like an appropriate time to focus in on a small area (5×5 square blocks or less) in Montreal as a test market so that we can more quickly determine the needs of our users.

5)     Organize it and they will come.  We need to keep developing JoatU’s organizational strategy before we can expect too many people to jump on board.  As much as I want a horizontal organization, we need to build adequate structure for those interested to properly latch onto.  Everyone is welcome to contribute, but we will not be waiting until we’ve already developed a team to build better organization, we need to be able to better accommodate volunteers now.

6)     $5000 can foot the bill for an alpha launch.  With new talent on board willing to help develop for very low pay, we can create a barebones version of JoatU with very limited features for $5000.  While this wasn’t an option when we initially launched asking for $25,000, it is now a possibility.

One of the greatest strengths of an open-source project is its capability to adapt to changing situations.  After careful consideration, a new cost assessment and a barebones alpha approach, we have decided to come back to the community with a counter-offer; Help us raise $5000 this time so that we can prove ourselves to you with a simplistic alpha prototype.  Once you try that out and like it, when we launch our next campaign, help us raise more to get it done in full.

Just to note, if any of our current funders are unhappy with this decision and want their money returned, please contact us and you will be refunded.

7)     Extended time-frame for full-time online dedication. Traveling, meeting people, and planting the seed of JoatU across Canada and the US is both an incredible experience and opportunity (I’ve given out upwards of 400 booklets).  Unfortunately this isn’t what an online crowdfunding campaign needs to be successful.  That’s why we’re extending the campaign significantly so that when I get back to being online 24/7, there will be full-time dedication to help us raise the funds necessary to feed developers.

8)     Thunderclap to reach the masses.  Thunderclap is an amazing tool to reach the most people possible.  Let’s launch JoatU’s awareness into the stratosphere by making one simple click and sharing it on your social networks!

 

 

Please Click Here to share our Thunderclap and help plant the JoatU seed across the world!