Building commons on the blockchain, a new narrative for basic income | Hilde Latour | TEDxAmstelveen

Translator: Michele Gianella
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs I am on a mission. And my guess is, so are some of you. Because in 2015, we, as United Nations, 193 countries, we defined 17 Sustainable
Development Goals. And these goals are so diverse, that there must be one goal
for each and every one of you that resonates with your heart. Back in 2015, we also agreed that we would make these goals
happen before 2030. That means we have a little more
than 10 years to go. So let’s get on with it,
let’s not waste any more time, and accelerate! Goal number one: end poverty. Not reduce it, end it. But what would be the most efficient way
to eliminate poverty? (Audience response) Exactly. The most efficient way
to eliminate poverty for once and for all is a universal,
unconditional basic income. In fact, if you look
at the definition of a basic income, it not only ends poverty, it also puts an end to hunger, reduces gender inequalities
and inequality in general. Because a basic income
is a periodic cash payment, paid to every individual, high enough to meet your basic needs –
food, water, clothes, shelter. No means testing: it doesn’t matter
if you’re rich or poor. No work requirement. The only condition you have to meet
is being human and alive. It’s as simple as that. The money goes directly into your hands, and you can decide freely
what to spend it on. A basic income is a guarantee
that whatever happens, you will never fall
through the bottom of the poverty line. And then, the poverty line
becomes a stable floor. A stage from where you can flourish, from where you can decide what you will do
with your time and energy. So yes, by definition alone, a basic income already contributes to four of the 17 Sustainable
Development Goals. But guess what? There is so much more. We know, from basic income pilots and cash transfer programs
around the world, that a basic income
has impressive positive effects on a variety of domains. Take crime, for instance: in all countries, many crimes
are poverty-related, right? Well, in Namibia, for example, we saw a decrease of total
crime rates by 30 percent, within one year when people
received a basic income. Thirty percent! With an impressive decline
in illegal hunting. You can look at health:
what are the effects on people’s health? Well, people change their eating patterns, they eat healthier food
because they can afford it. Sanitation improves in countries where these facilities
are not sufficiently available. Are you stressed? You’ll be delighted to hear that a basic income reduces stress
and stress-related health issues. Confirmed, again, by the recent experiments in Canada, where almost 90 percent
reported less stress; and in Finland, where we also see that people
become healthier and happier when they receive a basic income. A basic income contributes to decent work. Decent work? What is decent work? We’re obedient workers, aren’t we? Isn’t that decent enough? No, decent work means no more child labor. Decent work means no more exploitation. People get the freedom to say, “No,” or, “No, thank you very much,”
if you want to be polite. But you can have the freedom to say “No” to employers who don’t treat you well. People start their own businesses. They choose work and activities
that are meaningful to them. You can choose activities. You can call it work, but you can choose activities
that are meaningful to you when you have a basic income. It even contributes
to community participation. People become more caring
for others, compassionate. Education. Children stay in school longer. We saw that in India
and many other countries. In countries like the Netherlands,
students will not graduate with a debt. And if you’re in your 40s
and you want to change career, with a basic income it is much easier
to work less hours or quit your job, so you have time to learn new skills
and really change direction. So yes, if you look at the definition
of a basic income and the evidence gathered
in basic income experiments and cash transfer programs
around the world, you will see that a basic income alone contributes to 11 of the 17 Sustainable
Development Goals of the United Nations. Eleven, with one simple intervention. Eleven, with one simple intervention! OK, great – let’s do that, fantastic. But who is going to pay for this? Or, should I ask,
what is going to pay for this? Let’s have a look at innovation
and see if we can find some answers there. Innovation is a tricky one. Production and logistics
became so efficient that fewer and fewer people
earn more and more, while more and more people
are struggling to survive because they lost their paid job
because of automation. The gap between
the ultra-rich and the poor is growing faster
than we’ve ever seen before. Ninety percent of the wealth
generated in 2018 went to one percent of the people. And the ultra-rich protect their position
through things like intellectual property. That raises the question:
can you really own knowledge? In my opinion, there is no such thing
as intellectual property. We have a collective consciousness,
and the Internet. Intellectual property is nothing more than a business model
based on exclusion of others. It’s based on competition,
an I-win-you-lose mentality. Well, I prefer collaboration. And times are changing. The technologies of today enable us
to think and act very differently. We can redesign the future ourselves. If we build the machines and we program the algorithms
for the world of tomorrow, then we can decide what our world
of tomorrow will look like. Machines have no intrinsic motivation to earn money or accumulate wealth, have they? Unlike most humans, machines have no intrinsic motivation
to earn money or accumulate wealth. So let’s free the machines
from their human owners. Let’s liberate them
and make them part of the commons. Let’s create infrastructures of machines
that are not owned by anyone – or owned by all of us, if you like. Let them generate value and distribute it to the people
as a basic income. Would that be possible
with the technologies of today? Or is it just my crazy dream? May I tell you a little story? Once upon a time, not so far from here, Paul, an artist, and his friend Max,
a computer programmer, they bought a piece of forest, and they called it terra0. And they wanted to investigate if this forest could own
and utilize itself. And they started coding on the blockchain. They programmed a smart contract,
a set of rules programmed into code. And this contract stated that the forest, the non-human actor,
or the computer program could buy terra0 shares from Paul and Max, so-called “tokens”
registered on the blockchain. Another smart contract orders
a satellite image from terra0 every six months. A computer program analyzes the image
and defines the trees that can be harvested
without damaging the forest too much. Then the forest starts trading. Licenses to cut the trees are sold. With the money that comes in,
the non-human actor, the computer program, the forest, buys terra0 shares from Paul and Max, all fully automated. Once payment is complete,
Paul and Max hold no more tokens. So the forest is the sole shareholder
of its own economic unit. The forest, in economic terms,
controls itself and can start trading on its own. Paul and Max really exist. Paul is actually two persons,
Paul Seidler and Paul Kolling. Max is Max Hampshire. Terra0 also really exists. It’s a piece of forest
30 kilometers east of Berlin. Once the forest is a sole shareholder
of its own economic unit, then something really interesting happens. Because now we have a forest
taking care of itself, selling its own trees. Money comes in. But it has no urge to keep it. The forest has no intrinsic motivation
to keep the money. So we can program it to buy more forest
from human owners who are willing to sell. And, of course, we can also program it to distribute part of the surplus
to the people, to us, as a basic income. How cool is that? A forest taking care of itself,
selling its own trees, and giving us a basic income. How long would it take to have enough basic income
to meet our basic needs? It would probably take a while:
trees won’t grow that fast. Can we speed up the process a little bit
and combine it with other things? What about batteries
on wheels, for example? What if we build infrastructures
of batteries on wheels, electric cars that are not owned
by anyone, are part of the commons? They can be used for transport
of humans or goods. And when they’re not driving, they can deliver their energy
to places where energy is needed. People will pay a small fee, which will be lower
than what we’re used to because no profit-based
companies are involved. And this money can be used
for maintenance of the system, to grow the system,
produce or buy more cars, integrate new technologies. We’ll have modular cars, so people can choose
which car they want to drive today. You can choose which car
drives you home today. And maybe tomorrow,
you will want to drive another car. So people will understand very quickly
that it is much better not to own a car as long as you have one available
when you need it. And when the system is big enough, we can distribute part of the surplus
to the people as a basic income. So where shall we start? Let’s say we start in the Netherlands, a small country with a dense population
and high-quality roads, even in rural areas. Let’s say we start here,
in Amstelveen and in Nijmegen, where I live. We let the system grow until we meet the needs
of the people in the two cities. And when we reach that threshold, we start distributing
part of the surplus to all citizens of the country. More cities will follow. And these cars will be all over the place. And when we reach a state where we have enough basic income
to meet our basic needs, we can distribute part of the surplus
to people in other countries. By that time, more countries
will already have adopted this idea. And together, we can
generate enough capital to distribute a basic income for mankind,
slowly but surely and gaining speed. Because you can do this with a forest, with batteries on wheels, solar panels,
fishing boats, irrigation systems, art. And if you can buy a tree
directly from a forest, how difficult can it be to buy the egg
directly from a chicken? And it can be done with the technologies of today
and a little bit of guts. So I kindly advise you
to join me on this mission. We can all win. We can all win. (Applause)

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