Universal basic income: Bruce Sterling imagines the rest of the 21st century

How might universal basic income play out, if we choose to adopt it as a way to restructure our economy and society?  Cyberpunk writer, journalist, and killer speech-giver Bruce Sterling dove into some possibilities at the close of this year’s South By Southwest.

The speech begins with a gloomy rumination on the conference, so you can skip ahead to around 25:00 or 26:00 for the possible UBI futures.  And no, there’s no transcript available yet:

Sterling turns to human history to find ways of structuring a society that pays people not to work.  Helpfully he plays them out against the left-right political spectrum.  They include:

  • a universal academy, where people devote themselves to learning.
  • militarization: people serve and receive basic support, which pleases the right wing.
  • refugee status, where authorities supply clothing, food, shelter (“universal basic everything”).
  • a religious settlement, like living as monks or under sharia
  • expanded retirement.  “Everyone retires at 40… everyone learns to mimic the elderly.”
  • extermination, either First Nations or WWII style.
  • “health care uber alles”, a combination of hospitals and spas, focused on preserving and growing wellness.  Transhumanism and life extension come in here.
  • intentional rural communes, protected from the rest of society.
  • urban bohemians.  Getting paid to keep cities weird.
  • “Enlightenment” in the Buddhist sense, where people seek religious truth in “a permanent Burning Man”, “a state of general liberation from desire.”
  • a combination of religion and army, “all jihad all the time”.

This runs until 45:05 or so.  Then Sterling offers the possibility of a historical break, only to discount it, based on what he’s seen from SXSW.

Afterward the speech turns to robots and the judgement of history, with a serious call for a kind of neo-existentialism.  That’s powerful stuff.

Liked it? Take a second to support Bryan Alexander on Patreon!
This entry was posted in scenarios. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Universal basic income: Bruce Sterling imagines the rest of the 21st century

  1. Jacobin looked at US President Richard Nixon’s support of a Basic Income in 1968, until he turned against it, and why.

  2. VanessaVaile says:

    Listening to the whole thing — not skipping ahead. The darkness beats platitudes and tunnel vision any day.

    I subbed to UBI updates from somewhere else but hadn’t been reading them. Time to revisit them and do another round of collecting. This also reminds me I am behind in re-blogging BA to my precarious faculty network. Time to put a good scare into tunnel visioneers in their silos — or throw them deeper into denial.

    Welcome change of pace from higher admin, even that bent techie

  3. VanessaVaile says:

    Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    On BruceSterling imagining the #future & #BasicIncome at #SXSW…not for the faint of heart.

  4. Pingback: Having hope about the world and education in 2018 | Bryan Alexander

Leave a Reply to VanessaVaile Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *