Last week, I wrote about Venture for America founder Andrew Yang’s unlikely run for president, as he aims to convince the general public of the need for universal basic income (UBI). Whether one agrees that UBI is necessary in today’s digital economy or not, the stories highlighted in this week’s Heartland Tech newsletter show that inequality is increasingly top of mind for tech companies and their executives.

Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has a new book out today in which he joins Yang in calling for the implementation of UBI. Meanwhile, his former employer is giving troves of personal data to  Stanford researcher Raj Chetty, who will study the roles social divisions play in income inequality, as Politico’s Nancy Scola reported.

Finally, as I reported yesterday, tech think tank the Information Technology and Innovation Fund (ITIF) is calling for an overhaul of workforce training programs as artificial intelligence prepares to automate an array of tasks that workers perform today. But at the same time, the think tank came out against UBI, arguing that artificial intelligence won’t automate as many jobs as people fear.

What I feel is missing from these discussions is the hiring practices that may have contributed to income inequality. Certainly, automation threatens to disrupt the jobs of millions of Americans from Silicon Valley to the Heartland — as has been true with any new technology.  But when nearly 3 in 4 new jobs go to the most prosperous 40 percent of ZIP codes in the U.S. — and companies with huge market caps, like Facebook, are often the ones adding these jobs — it’s not enough to simply look at how training and UBI can aid the communities that are receiving fewer and fewer jobs.

As always, please send me your thoughts via email. And be sure to sign up for one of the remaining tickets to VentureBeat’s inaugural BLUEPRINT event, taking place in two weeks in Reno, Nevada.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Hensel
Heartland Tech Reporter

Featured Video

Please enjoy this video from CNBC, “Facebook cofounder’s proposal to rethink inequality

From the Heartland Tech Channel

Workforce programs will need to be overhauled in the age of artificial intelligence

Not all researchers agree that artificial intelligence is as important a development as electricity or fire, or that hundreds of millions of jobs will be automated in the next decade. But it is clear that an increasing array of tasks will soon be completed by machines. And workers need to be prepared for a future […]

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Silicon Valley backlash won’t necessarily cause an exodus to Middle America

OPINION: Peter Thiel is fleeing liberal Silicon Valley for … Los Angeles. That’s according to a story from the Wall Street Journal this week, which reports that Thiel is planning to relocate to a home he bought in the City of Angels six years ago. Fifty staffers from Thiel Capital and the Thiel Foundation are also reportedly planning […]

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AT&T offers roadmap for U.S. cities that want early 5G service

The upcoming transition from 4G to 5G cellular technologies has consumers eagerly awaiting the chance to get their hands on smartphones with extraordinarily fast internet speeds. In the meantime, city mayors are grappling with how to get their citizens access to 5G service as soon as possible, without getting bulldozed by telecom companies. In a blog […]

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The Iowan Project wants to identify skilled tech workers who have left the state 

A lot of young professionals dream of leaving their hometowns after graduating high school or college in search of broader career opportunities or new lifestyles. It seems like an inevitable thing. However, it’s also a problem for states like Iowa that are losing valuable tech talent to other ecosystems. But what if Iowa could identify […]

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Beyond VB

Facebook’s next project: American inequality

A Stanford economist is using the company’s vast store of personal data to study why so many in the U.S. are stuck in place economically. (via Politico)

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When you give Alaskans a universal basic income, they still keep working 

A universal basic income (UBI) is at the heart of the debate about how society will organize itself after robots and algorithms do more and more of today’s work. Not everyone agrees how we do this. (via Quartz)

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Facebook’s brewing legal battle with cities and states 

Last week, Seattle became the first city to crack down on the secrecy surrounding online political ads. Experts say it likely won’t be the last. (via Governing)

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Austin Blockchain Collective to Advocate for Local Crypto Startups

One of the top selling points for blockchain technologies is that it decentralizes whatever it is used for — cryptocurrencies, government records or health data. So, it might sound a little strange for a bunch of local blockchain-based startups to centralize their efforts. But that’s exactly what’s happening. (via Austin Inno)

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