Features of A Solution, v0.2

My latest list of the features that any solution to the robot/AI-driven unemployment crisis needs to address.

  1. Works both for individuals and communities
  2. Creates security — nobody falls through the cracks and everyone has a real shot at building a decent life — and fosters innovation
  3. Builds Grassroots Power at the Core of the Economy
  4. Because the future is unknowable, the solution still needs to be worth doing if the crisis happens later & it needs to promote testing out ideas

Makers All Overview, v0.02

A quick update: I’ve been spending a bunch of time wrestling with talking points, and I’m feeling a bit stuck (or Trumped). So, a quick dump of my current summary of Makers All. It’s a bit of a hot mess, but the editing part of my brain seems to have left for Christmas extra early, so at this point I just need to get it out of my head.

The Problem:

Some experts believe that between 2025 and 2040, 25-75% of all jobs will be eliminated by robots/AI. If we don’t act, this crisis could end up destroying the middle class and the poor and potentially our democracy itself. But because this crisis will turn upside down a lot of our assumptions about how the market works, it’s also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rethink our economy. So, how can we take on this crisis and create a more just, prosperous economy everywhere from Harlem to Harlan County?

Universal Basic Income Isn’t the Solution

Most folks have been coalescing around Universal Basic Income (UBI) — giving everyone a yearly basic income of $12,000 or so — as the answer. UBI has a lot of advantages as one piece of a solution: it would prevent anyone from starving, and it would give everyone a cushion that would give them the freedom to spend some time however they choose, from volunteering to taking the risk of creating a small business or coop. But by itself, UBI isn’t the whole answer.

  • Advocates haven’t come to terms with the magnitude of the change robots/AI are bringing with them. In a world where massive numbers of people will never have a job and the number will only continue to grow, telling all these people that they and probably their children can look forward to for the rest of their lives is living on just $12,000/year is not a real answer.
  • In a world where the 1% already have way too much power, UBI keeps economic power in the hands of a few. This is a recipe for disaster — especially in a world where the 1% will feel more and more like they are embattled “makers” in a world of parasitic “takers.”

If UBI isn’t the right solution, what does the answer need to accomplish?

  • How do we make sure that everyone — not just some individuals but all communities — benefit financially from this new economy and ensure that, unlike economic transformations in the past, no one is left out?
  • Like UBI, we want to take advantage of automating drudgery away and create more freedom so that both individuals and their communities will be able to help steer their destinies?
  • How do we build grassroots power, especially at the core of the economy? And do it in a way that gives pride in ownership — that we are all makers, that we all make the economy work?

The Solution: Makers All

Makers All has 2 parts: Make Creativity Work and Make Community Work

1) Make Creativity Work

The Net has fostered an unprecedented bottom up outpouring of creative works, and yet it’s harder than ever for anyone not at the top of the game o pay the bills doing it. Journalists, musicians, songwriters, photographers — they’re all struggling to survive. Meanwhile the real money goes to the toll collectors — the tech companies that freely give away their stuff to sell ads, record label insiders, patent trolls, etc who all use the government-shaped rules of the road to make sure they get paid. This is going to be even more of an issue as not only robots and AI but also technology like 3D printing, wearables, biohacking, etc become the driving forces of the economy: these are all tech where the most valuable part isn’t, say, an individual robot but the creative works– patents, copyrighted software etc . — that let you build & program the robot, create a 3D printed thingee, etc.

The solution: Make Creativity Work

A) Create an “Attention Economy,” a.k.a. YouTube/Spotify Done Right

  • Create a free/inexpensive system that lets everyone share in creative bounty and pays creators real $$ based on who uses it

B) Make “Attention Economy” Production Accessible to All Communities

  • Smooth the Learning Curve: design Robots/3DP/etc and the tools & ecosystem around them so it’s easy to start “coding”, easy to “level up” as you need to
  • Organize in Communities: avoid the mistake of the Net, which promised it would empower everyone but left many communities behind. Create a network of organizing ___in all communities so that every community benefits and so that there are enough people in every community who understand this new world and have built enough grassroots power so that every community has a seat at the table.

The End Result: we will unleash massive creativity and wealth that every community will benefit from.

2) Make Communities Work

Although every community should benefit from the Attention Economy, not every individual will benefit enough to pay the bills, and not everything we value will make money in the Attention Economy. So we will need another way to make sure nobody starves and everyone has a shot at making it. So:
A) We Will Need the Government to:

  • Make a Floor: Universal Basic Income for all: nobody starves, everyone benefits from society’s bounty
  • Provide resources for what the market doesn’t value — $$for taking care of kids/elderly, “volunteer bucks”, grants for making communities resilient, etc.
  • If a community is hit hard by current crisis or left behind in previous crises, create a Marshall Plan-style transition
  • Everyone Gets to Help Write the Rules of the two: e.g., setting up the payment structure of the Attention Economy so it isn’t winner takes all and so there’s more room for “mid-list” successes
  • Getting Fledgling Markets Off the Ground, Paying for things that Market doesn’t value like roads, etc.

B) Create a Continuum of Participation In a Way That Builds Community Power & Experience at Actually Governing
{need to better explain why I think this is so critical – for innovation, for giving people a feeling of being more involved in the government and having more control, less alienated, and from more room for bottom-up experimentation that we can learn from — getting the best of both worlds {

  • Small Group Experiments: Tactical Urbanism / Voter Kickstarter
  • Participatory Budgeting on Steroids (ex: DARPA PB)
  • Representative Democracy