Yoni Assia. Picture credit to: CCN
The recent international basic income conference “Visions for a Brighter Future,” UBI-Nordic 2019 was held in Oslo from April 5–7; at it, Nir Yaacobi and Gilad Barner became the first representatives of a universal basic income (UBI)-related blockchain project to present at a UBI conference. Their not-for-profit research organization, GoodDollar, aims to develop an open-source method for implementing UBI through blockchain. Blockchain technology was popularized by cryptocurrencies, but is, in general terms, a distributed ledger (i.e., a database hosted by numerous servers rather than one central authority) where all transactions are verified publicly, rather than being controlled by a single administrator. Blockchain protocols can allow for the execution of smart contracts, or an encoded agreement that auto-executes once its terms are fulfilled. Due to the nature of the type of encryption that blockchain uses, each encrypted transaction includes information from the one that occurs before it, making transactions, once verified, theoretically impossible to change or erase. Some blockchain projects, like GoodDollar, aim to eventually create Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs) that eschew classical governance for a public, distributed, social and financial system based on blockchain.
The idea of GoodDollar was born over ten years ago in a paper called “The Visible Hand,” which outlined a framework for a monetary system where smaller investments are granted the same interest rates as larger ones in order to combat extreme wealth inequality. The organization’s current mission is to “build open-source solutions for efficient allocation of resources according to principles informed by research on UBI and related policy proposals.”
Other UBI-related blockchain and cryptocurrency initiatives reported by Basic Income News have included SwiftDemand, Grantcoin, and a BitNation exploration of the concept of UBI and cryptocurrency.
More information at:
Yoni Assia and Omri Ross, “Good Dollar Experiment: Wealth Distribution Position Paper,” July 11th 2018
Yoni Assia, “Good Dollar – The Visible Hand,” November 28th 2008
Cameron McLeod, “BitNation: Recent Advances in Cryptocurrency See Basic Income Tested,” March 30th 2017
UBI-Nordic, “Basic Income: ‘Visions for a Brighter Future’ UBI-Nordic 2019—Oslo, April 5–7”, Accessed May 13th 2019
SwiftDemand is a basic income blockchain experiment in which each user who is signed up daily receives a certain number of Swift tokens. The project’s white paper gives a clear understanding of the implementation of this Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) providing Universal Basic Income and how the Swift Protocol works.
The concept of SwiftDemand is to create a transactional currency that provides basic income. Hence, four types of accounts are required to ensure that the ecosystem works:
- Citizens – The registration to become a Swift Citizen is open to anyone and is for free. However, a unique individual should only be allowed to have one account that receives the basic income and is validated by an Identity Provider.
- Entities – There are accounts not tied to individuals and are allowed to exist for business or privacy purposes. However, these do not receive any basic income.
- Delegated Nodes – these are responsible for maintaining full nodes, containing every single transaction that has occurred on the blockchain, and for creating new blocks for the tokens. Delegated nodes are elected by Swift Citizens, and the elections occur every 6 months.
- Identity Providers – These ensure the validation of the Swift Citizens identity, create new citizens by generating a key pair, i.e. a public and a private key allowing to encrypt information that ensures data is protected during a transaction, and include the identity on the blockchain.
As specified by SwiftDemand creators, the goal of the Swift protocol income distribution is to provide a faire method of providing Swifts to all Swift Citizens. Swifts are distributed on a daily basis under the form of a basic income and, today, the grant is set at 100 tokens. However, it is subject to change as the amount of tokens distributed depends on the number of Swift Citizens that exist in the ecosystem.
It is also important to note that the basic income has to be claimed by the Swift Citizens with a maximum of seven unclaimed days of Swifts. For example, it means that if a Swift Citizen claims its basic incomes every four days, he will be granted 400 tokens every four days. Another way to earn Swifts is through referrals program. When any Citizen successfully introduces a new user to SwiftDemand, his/her account is granted with 500 tokens.
This attempt at implementing a universal basic income has the potential to make basic income more visible. Despite a complex protocol, the platform is free and easy to use. Even though the Swift currency does not have any value outside the Swift ecosystem, citizens have the opportunity to sell goods and services, transfer their tokens or make purchases, creating a parallel economy ruled by basic income values.
More information at:
Swift Protocol White Paper (Draft)
One Pager – SwiftDemand
“Swift Demand: Swifts Token Attempt At Basic Income Project?”, Bitcoin Exchange Guide
Article reviewed by André Coelho.
Launched in May 2015, Grantcoin is the first blockchain-based currency managed and distributed by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Like Bitcoin, Grantcoin can be stored in electronic “wallets” on phones, computers, or the web, and traded electronically.
The Grantcoin Foundation originally planned to distribute its currency to “socially responsible businesses”, adding charities later in the year. In 2016, however, the organization decided to change its tactics — devising a plan to distribute the currency in the form of unconditional basic income grants to individuals.
The first distribution took place on July 1, 2016, when 255 applicants, representing at least 17 countries, each received grants deposited into their personal Grantcoin wallets.
According to the organization’s news report, the average recipient received approximately 5.19 USD worth of Grantcoin. To be sure, this might not be a livable basic income, but, as founder and director Eric Stetson says in the report, the aim of the Grantcoin Foundation is to “show a way for the people of the world to create an equitable, sustainable monetary system based on fair global issuance of the money supply” — and, by demonstrating the functionality of the new digital currency, even these small initial grants can help to “show the way”.
This goal of the project is elaborated in Grantcoin’s mission statement:
We insist that a new currency be equitable: that it shall be issued to all people as a human right, as a universal basic income to be enjoyed by all — to compensate, at least partially, for the accidents of birth and circumstances of fortune that have blessed or condemned different people and regions of the world to wealth or poverty.
The foundation states that it uses 80% of the value of charitable donations it receives to support the price of Grantcoin on markets where it trades, so that Grantcoin basic income will hold value for needy recipients.
The Grantcoin Foundation plans to distribute its currency quarterly, each year adding 3.5% of the amount in circulation. The next distribution will take place on September 30, 2016 — with registration available on the organization’s website. (Yes, you can sign up to receive your own Grantcoin this autumn; I just did so myself!)
Meanwhile, the foundation has been building connections with the basic income movement in the United States. For instance, Eric Stetson spoke at a meeting of Basic Income Guarantee Minnesota on June 23, eliciting considerable interest from the group.
For more information about the initial distribution, and to keep up with additional news, visit: “Grantcoin Foundation Distributes First Basic Income Grants to Over 250 Recipients in 17 Countries,” Grantcoin: Currency with a Conscience, July 1, 2016.
Grantcoin logo used by permission of Eric Stetson.
Special thanks to my supporters on Patreon.
Johan Nygren — previously featured on Basic Income News for his work on BitNation and its application to basic income — is now designing a system he calls “Resilience,” which is capable of implementing what he describes as a “Darwinian basic income.”
Although he supports basic income, Nygren is pessimistic about the possibility of a state-funded policy, since he believes that “cryptography dis-intermediates the very ability to exert centralized control.”
Nygren has developed his Resilience system as an alternative:
I’ve been working on designing new types of incentives that could enable universal basic income even in a world where taxation has become impossible. The idea behind the system, that I call Resilience, is to reward people and companies for choosing to consume from entities that donate to the system. When they do so, they will inherit what I call a Taxeme, that will extract the same amount of wealth when someone else consumes from them. The system is based on paying it forward, and rewards people for spreading a behavior of donating part of their income.
Those who pay forward a Taxeme will get rewards from future people and companies whose transactions and business grow outwards from where the Taxeme originated, forming a perpetual wealth redistribution cycle that is driven not by violence, but by something similar to the golden rule.
Nygren explains Resilience in a recent post on Ethereum, including videos and sample code.
Johan Nygren, “Crypto-states make taxation impossible – Darwinian Basic Income is the Future,” Ethereum, June 14, 2016.
Thanks to my supporters on Patreon. (To see how you too can support my work for Basic Income News, click the link.)
As cryptocurrencies grow more mature, they may offer a method for providing a basic income to citizens across the globe, argues Alyssa Hertig in an article in Vice. Advocates like Greg Slepak, founder of Group Currency, believe that basic income has not yet been adopted on a large scale due, in part, to “government incompetence” in safe and efficient delivery of the funds. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can potentially avoid this problem.
Bitcoin, like other cryptocurrencies, can be programmed to automatically pay out a basic income to members. It also provides a secure ledger, accessible to all members, for the delivery of funds. This allows a basic income to be implemented among consenting individuals without the passage of legislation.
Hertig describes two new platforms, UCoin and Ethereum, that might to be used to allow a basic income to be distributed through a system like Group Currency. Other technological advances may simplify the process of implementing a basic income even further.
Alyssa Hertig, “How Bitcoin Could Make Distributing a Universal Basic Income Actually Possible”, Vice, August 12, 2015.