Y Combinator President Sam Altman proposed structuring
basic income similar to profit-sharing, but for the
The idea of basic income has exploded in popularity
over the last couple years.
Altman has taken a keen interest in the system and is
running a pilot study in Oakland, California, ahead of a larger
Sam Altman, the president of Silicon Valley’s most prestigious
startup accelerator, Y Combinator, is one of the leading voices
in Silicon Valley calling for a radical economic idea called
The idea is meant to lift people from poverty by affording them a
supplemental, no-strings-attached income on a regular basis. Many
proponents have given their two
cents for crafting basic income on a mass scale, such as
redistributing wealth created by robots or structuring it as a
Altman, while an outspoken proponent of robotics and artificial
intelligence, offered up a modified version of profit-sharing.
“What I would propose is a model like a company where you
get a share in US Inc.,” Altman
told the magazine Spectacle. “And then, instead of getting a
fixed fee, you get a percentage of the GDP every year.”
The idea would be that citizens would still have an
incentive to add to the economy to boost their individual portion
of basic income, even if there is no formal requirement to work
for it. Altman said the structure could help unite people on both
sides of the political aisle.
“I think that is how you align everybody,” Altman said.
“That message you can get a lot of people behind, even people who
traditionally hate welfare, hate socialism.”
greatest criticism has been that it encourages laziness and,
at least according to American critics, runs counter to the
American ethos of earning a living through hard work.
Advocates like Altman have
addressed these concerns by arguing that basic income sets no
limits on how wealthy people can get, like socialism does. Basic
income merely establishes a floor — or safety net — so that
people have a harder time slipping into poverty.
Altman isn’t speaking from the sidelines. Last October, Y
launched a pilot study of basic income in Oakland, California
that gave between $1,000 and $2,000 to a handful of recipients. A
announced in September, will include roughly 100 recipients
split between two states.
Despite all the time and energy he’s invested in basic
income, Altman reserves some doubt about the idea — people may
indeed stop working. A pragmatist at heart, the 32-year-old
investor has said he simply wants to explore ideas that could
have a huge impact on improving people’s quality of life.
“[Fifty] years from now, I think it will seem ridiculous
that we used fear of not being able to eat as a way to motivate
people,” he wrote in a January 2016 blog
post on YC. “I also think that it’s impossible to truly
have equality of opportunity without some version of guaranteed