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Player Piano was too optimistic

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Today in disruptive alternatives to not letting people die of hunger, exposure or tooth decay: Hey kids, who wants a data extraction based income?

Two factors will determine whether UBI becomes part of the post-pandemic new normal. The first is how sustainable it is for any government to fund a perpetual UBI without massively adding to the national debt and raising inflation.

Or making corporations and multimillionaires pay their fair share of taxes, or saying no to the latest weapons system, or otherwise ripping the mask off the monster that chased Shaggy and Scooby shouting “Raar raaar, national debt! Inflation!” and revealing that it was three fuckheads from AEI in a dirty bed sheet all along.

Speaking of the AEI.

Research by the American Enterprise Institute has shown a way to achieve a budget-neutral UBI that would give each American $1,350 per month by eliminating almost all current welfare programs. But, given there’s no free lunch in economics, the plan has been shown to be detrimental to millions of citizens at the bottom of income distribution. So instead of lowering inequality, a UBI could raise it.

If I were going to voice my objections to the UBI, or anything else, I would simply not use “research” from the AEI to back me up, ever ever ever.

The second factor is how UBI would affect human behavior. Earning a living is not an economic necessity only; it is also a source of dignity and self-respect. There is clear correlation between unemployment and mental illness, as well as suicide. Humans need to feel worthy in order to live a meaningful life.

See the original article for the obligatory link to a study that quickly treads on the clear correlation between unemployment and mental illness/suicide. But if I did accept that TO WORK IS TO LIVE – I might expect the writer to put forward a solution that involves working. At least I might if I were a naïf or a fool. As it is I know that the only thing that varies in these articles is the number of shells in the in the Don’t let people die of hunger or exposure or tooth decay switcheroo shell game. This one has about a dozen.

And no jobs!

Probably no pea, either.

Thankfully, our worth also has a monetary value. Our digital avatars and data, already quite important, will become even more so in the future, as they are needed to train and power the intelligent algorithms that will replace us in the workplace. The enormous value of our data is currently monetized by a handful of tech companies.

Jesus, this makes the world of Player Piano seem like a spun sugar unicorn utopia. In other words, a sense of worth can only be obtained by letting corporations extract value from us and since corporations are going to give our jobs to computers we need to find something corporations want from us so they don’t cut off our validation supply.

What if we claimed property rights for our personal data?

A fine idea, but what about my sense of self worth???

Instead of effectively selling the data to tech giants in exchange for free services, we could instead aggregate our data into a collective asset. Then, we could assign representatives with fiduciary responsibilities to the data providers—us—to govern that asset on our behalf.

As my oldest friend used to say “Or we could shit and fall back in it.”

Call this organization a citizen data trust. 

What’s a data trust? From a link in the article (emphasis added for emphasis).

One of the greatest barriers to adopting and scaling AI applications is the scarcity of varied, high-quality raw data. To overcome it, firms need to share their data. But the many regulatory restrictions and ethical issues surrounding data privacy pose a major obstacle to doing this. A novel solution that my firm is piloting that could solve this problem is a data trust: an independent organization that serves as a fiduciary for the data providers and governs their data’s proper use.

Uh-huh. Sure. Corporations implement the Willis Towers Watson Method ©, put their data in one big pot and then pay the potholder to access the raw megadata. Yeah yeah yeah. I’m sure nothing could go wrong with that. But where’s the worthiness?

The [citizen] data trust could then give, for a fee, controlled access to our data to private or public organizations that need data to develop algorithms, products, and services. Those fees would be collected by the trust and distributed to the citizens as dividends, thus funding a UBI. 

Maybe I’m just old and shit, but getting a divvy from InfoBrokCo for letting corporations extract value from my personal data doesn’t sound very life affirming, especially since I’m not sure how much data I’ll have to extract if my job is being done by a computer and I have to rely on a data extraction based income to survive. Am I supposed to get warm fuzzies when I read about the launch of the latest internet-enabled tooth brush or cutting edge medical treatment because my de-identified (I hope) data helped create it?

Data sets increase in value when combined with other data sets. A smart city data trust could hold dozens of citizen data sets, including health records, transportation habits, and environmental data. If every citizen was a shareholder in that data trust, dividends could translate to thousands of dollars of income per month.

Not to dip my little fly in anyone’s 22nd century nanotech ointment but basing the size – or existence – of a person’s data extraction based income on the value corporations assign to the aggregate data produced by the residents of the city where that person lives doesn’t miss the point of the UBI, it takes careful aim at it and opens fire. Then it draws a bead on the the idea that people shouldn’t die of hunger, exposure or tooth decay and blasts away at that. All of this to make sure corporations have more ways to extract value from the plebes and make the plebes reliant on corporate whim. Meanwhile there’s a viable alternate value extraction method that would fund the UBI and possibly even flying cars, called taxing the shit out of rich individuals and corporations. We should try that first.

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