Four months ago, Y Combinator launched a five-year study aimed at “giving people enough money to live on with no strings attached.” Today, the YC Research-funded Basic Income project announced that it’s starting a “short-term” pilot study in Oakland, California to better understand if its methods work.
“Oakland is a city of great social and economic diversity, and it has both concentrated wealth and considerable inequality,” wrote organization president Sam Altman. “We think these traits make it a very good place to explore how basic income could work for our pilot.”
Those participating in this inaugural study will receive “unconditional” income, meaning that they’ll receive funds with no strings attached. Altman hopes that with the unspecified amount provided, it’ll promote freedom and as such, Y Combinator will be able to examine how people “experience that freedom” — they can volunteer, work, not work, or move to another country.
The next few months will be spent designing the pilot before being implemented.
Y Combinator said that it has already been in contact with Oakland city officials and community groups soliciting feedback, so it’s not as if the organization is barging in thinking it can magically change things overnight and doing things how they want. Public events are also planned to hear more opinions from local residents.
A product of the YC Research program, Basic Income is a long-term study to assess the impact technological improvements have on resources, jobs, and cost of living. Altman posits that as technology moves to replace existing jobs, there has to be some minimum level of income to allow people to live — to provide a floor. He believes people should be able to work and earn as much as they want, however, saying, “We hope a minimum level of economic security will give people the freedom to pursue further education or training, find or create a better job, and plan for the future.”
To help guide this effort, Altman has tapped Elizabeth Rhodes as Basic Income’s research director.