Y Combinator announced plans for a pilot program that would provide $2,000 monthly to (up to) 100 residents of Oakland to see what life might look like after our Roomba’s and laundry-folding robots rise up and take our jobs.
The accelerator hired a researcher to lead the project, described as a short-term study to better understand the impact of a society in which many jobs are outsourced to automation. The test is part one of a five-year research project on the social and behavioral changes brought about by guaranteeing all adults a basic income to covering minimum living expenses as robots and artificial intelligence begin to take bigger bites out of the job market.
“Oakland is a city of great social and economic diversity, and it has both concentrated wealth and considerable inequality,” wrote Altman. “These traits make it a very good place to explore how basic income could work for our pilot.”
As for why Y Combinator is funding this study itself, Altman told TechCrunch Disrupt attendees:
“In a world where technology is going to eliminate jobs faster than we can create them, there is going to be a very hard shift that people aren’t ready for. America is a rich enough country that people shouldn’t be worrying about a place to sleep or what food to eat.”
The looming problem of automation wrangling jobs from citizens is a very real threat, but to date, we’ve yet to see any large-scale tests or studies to show what life might look like should this happen.
Moving to a future without jobs isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but Y Combinator is right in its assessment that now is the time to start finding an answer to how we’re going to care for citizens that have been replaced by cold, hard steel and electronics.