Interview: Time for a digital basic income
While many basic income advocates concentrate on shifting government policy, some in the tech world are taking the fight into their own hands.
Cyrptocurrencies have the potential to dramatically disrupt the government system of fiat issued currency. When new money is created, some cryptocurrencies are planning to distribute the dividend as a basic income to its members.
Duniter (formerly known as uCoin) is helping to push this monetary revolution. Duniter would evenly distribute all of the money created, potentially even on a daily basis, to add up to 10 percent growth each year.
One of the lead developers of Duniter, Gaël, said he was inspired by the basic income after the financial crisis in 2008, when he realized something was wrong with the global economic system.
“We needed a system that would let people create without having to prove to the institutions, be it the banks, or the state, that what they were doing was useful,” Gaël said.
The full interview can be found below:
1. What is your involvement in Duniter? What is your background?
My name is Gaël and I’m known as “inso” in the Duniter project. I am the Lead Developer of Sakia, a desktop client for Duniter networks.
I am an engineer in Software and Systems. I have been working as part of the Duniter team in my free time for 3 years. At the beginning, I was building the only client existing on Duniter network, so that advanced users could see and test it for real. I gave cgeek (the founder of Duniter) some feedback about his developments and the API (a set of functionality for the developers) of the Duniter network. Our goal at this moment is to help more developers to contribute to the project, by testing and working with us.
Apart from the technical stuff, I communicate about the project as much as I can on Twitter and diaspora (firstname.lastname@example.org). I translate our French articles into English on our blog. I try to explain what we are doing and why : what are the problems with modern money systems (debt-money, crypto-currencies, etc.) and what we are trying to fix by developing Duniter.
2. What inspired you to get involved in this project ?
I grew up with the Internet and I have always been passionate about the decentralized aspect of it.
When the 2008 financial crisis hit the planet, I suddenly realized that something was inherently wrong in modern economics. I discovered that if banks disappeared with their debts, the common money we were using would disappear with them. The banking system was too important — “Too Big To Fail”. At the same time, the Universal Basic Income was starting to become a real topic on the social networks. Automation was going to replace a lot of manual jobs really fast, what is called “Disruption” today. We needed a system that would let people create without having to prove to the institutions, be it the banks, or the state, that what they were doing was useful. Because if the society was not agile enough to adapt, social crisis were going to hit soon or later.
This is where I discovered the Relative Theory of Money (Here in French or here for a basic English translation). This theory describes a money which is issued by every individuals, using a symmetric distribution in space and time. It means it is decentralized and growing regularly. There is no one who has the power of money issuance on others. It understands the fact that nobody can definitively say what is valuable, and so it is respectful to what humans want to do with their own life.
A first crypto-currency project began, called Open-UDC. But it was complicated and I did not understood exactly how it would work. This is were cgeek forked Open-UDC by creating what was called by then uCoin, now Duniter. He used technologies I could understand, and it was based on concepts which were proven to work (Web of Trust, Blockchains), so I was willing to work with him.
3. What is the goal of Duniter ?
The Duniter project wants to create a Libre Money, as defined by the Relative Theory of Money. A Libre Money is issued as a Universal Dividend, which is a percentage of the existing monetary mass, shared to all the money members. For a Libre Money to issue a valuable Universal Dividend, it will need a lot of users. We would like the first Libre Money to be issued by 1 million to 10 million users. So Duniter has to be easy enough to use and secure enough to be trusted.
4. How does Duniter work ?
The Duniter network is decentralized. It is using a blockchain to synchronize the money state across its nodes. As opposed to Bitcoin, there is no power race in Duniter. In Bitcoin, because of the CPU race, the power is given to the ones who own the more computing power. In Duniter, it is democratic; because every user is identified as a unique human, they can write in the blockchain in turns. Simply put, each node is associated to a member of the money. When a member writes data in the blockchain, he has to wait before being able to write again. This is what ensures that the blockchain does not end in the hand of a few users, and that it does not burn too much energy.
To identify users, Duniter makes the choice of a self-regulated system by its own members. This is the Web of Trust. Each member can certify new users. When a user receives enough certifications and is not too far away from the existing members in the web of trust, he becomes a member.
For example, if I certified cgeek and that cgeek certifies you, your distance from me is two steps. This distance is checked with all the members of the Web of trust, and if it is below a given limit, let’s say four or five, you join the web of trust and start to issue your own Universal Dividend. Simple as that!
5. How much of a basic income does Duniter include for each member ?
Duniter issues around 10 percent of new money each year. This new money is shared to all the members. The rhythm can be faster: for example, we can issue every day 0.026 percent of new money, and at the end of the year, it will be a growth of 10 percent.
Ten percent is not a number chosen randomly. It respects the symmetry in time. If a new user join the Duniter network in 35 years, he will start to issue the Universal Dividend at the same speed as we did before. Ten percent is calibrated so that in half a human life, 40 years, you create the same share of the monetary mass as every members did before. One should not be privileged and create a bigger share of money during his life just because he joined Duniter earlier or later.
6. What are the reasons Duniter is utilizing a basic income and how did the team first get introduced to the basic income concept?
I think most of the team discovered Basic Income before reading about the Relative Theory of Money. One of the biggest debate within basic income community is “how much should we give to individuals?”
The Relative Theory of Money demonstrate that to consider individuals equals and free, a money has to be issued symmetrically between individuals, in space and time. It means that it has to be issued by a Basic Income called Universal Dividend.
Yoland Bresson (an early advocate and participant in the Basic Income Earth Network), who wrote the preface of the Relative Theory of Money, is the author of the theory of “Time-Value”. Interesting enough, both theories, applied to the euro-zone, result in almost the same Universal Basic Income amount.
Another interesting thing is the Theorem of equivalence between a Libre Money and a Universal Basic Income. This demonstration states that a Universal Dividend, based on money issuance, is strictly equivalent to a Universal Basic Income based on a tax with a lower issuance rate of money. Basically, issuing 10 percent of new money each year is strictly the same as issuing three percent of new money and taxing seven percent of every accounts. But the Occam’s razor principle states that the simpler a system is, the better. The Universal Dividend is really simple: no taxation is required, no administration is necessary to check for the redistribution. It is only about issuing new money. And it is strictly equivalent to a Universal Basic Income! You can analyze on the website of cuckooland how it works (in french).
7. How many members does Duniter currently have and what is the utilization rate? What have the trends been so far?
Our current testing money is issued at the rhythm of 10 percent per day. This is huge because we do not want this money to take any value: we are just using it to test Duniter network. This money currently has 200 members. This is pretty good for a test. We have seen a growing interest for Duniter recently. In France we are doing events every six months to work on Duniter and find new contributors. More and more people are coming each time, so this is really encouraging.
We will start a new test money at the beginning of January, called “GTest”, and then the first real money, calibrated at 10 percent growth a year, will be started. We expect a lot of people to register at this time. For the first time in history, we will be able to create our own Universal Basic Income without having to wait for governments and banks to understand its importance!