Decentralizing basic income: basicincome.co

I recently bumped into basicincome.co, an attempt to create a basic income through a cryptocurrency. Currently there is a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to accelerate the project. Here are some questions I asked its creator Johan Nygren.

What is Basicincome.co?

basicincome.co is a first attempt at providing a decentralized safety net Network that can compete with the state. it uses an incentive structure that's the exact opposite of current tax collection.

Imagine if you took your insurance company, breed it with Kickstarter, mix in some reward mechanisms and add a bit of Martin Luther King. VoilĂ . A free market incentive based welfare system.

Could you tell me more about this whole incentive structure ?

Incentives is the hard problem. If force isn't an option, how do you get people and corporations to contribute to the social security a safety net offers? The problem is not as hard as it might sound. To get some perspective, think about how incentive centered design has transformed other financial platforms in the recent years. Think about crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is not a tool but a paradigm shift which creates a disruptive challenge and a new dimension to the world economy. And then there are Bitcoin-like systems, that use incentive-driven miners to maintain the network. Dana Edwards included a section about this in his whitepaper, see Attraction by incentive rather than coercive force (Incentive-centered design protocol).

How did you come up with the idea?

I studied medical science in my early 20s, and reflected a lot on Robert Karasek's theories of occupational stress and employee control. I then drifted into basic income philosophy and began to write about my ideas of basic income and memetics, and how the ability to say no has a profound positive impact on overall quality of life.

Then 2 years ago, I discovered Ripple, an open-source financial platform with an open API. That empowered me as a creative because I could build on their platform without having to go through a bunch of bureaucrats. So I began sketching out my concept of dividend pathways, and then added my incentive-layer idea. Then I put the whole thing on ice for a while after a break up, and returned to it in May 2014.

When did you first hear about basic income?

In med school, about 5 years ago. As I came more and more in contact with the capitalist reality of adult life there was nothing else to do but to research a better system. During my medical studies, I'd see patients all the time who were suffering from scarcity-related fight and flight symptoms. And I never understood why it had to be so.

How is this going to work? How to avoid people getting more identities and thus cashing in double or triple basic income? Ethereum? Other systems?

The decentralized application will support every ID system online, and let the crowd select.

I'm a fan of peer-to-peer based webs of trust and they're coming eventually, but more hierarchical societies seem to do an ok job at avoiding multiple identities and I can work with what they offer for now.

In other words, I'll use what's on the market. And Basicincome.co is agnostic about what identity systems people choose to trust, it's really up to the users to choose.

Is there a proof of concept or code available?

There is a proof of concept that includes most features. You can login with your Ripple account on http://connect.basicincome.co/#/, or look at a visual of a live network on http://graph_dev.basicincome.co/. It's not a complicated system. The structure of it is really simple.

I've got all the code I've created on GitHub. The system is built around a database that stores the entire network, including all dividend pathways, and penalties for the incentive layer. You can visualise all the data at graph_dev.basicincome.co.

There is currently a fundraiser at Indiegogo, what are you planning to do with the money?

My work is to push this technology and these ideas out there, and to compete in the marketplace. The campaign is my first attempt at becoming a commercial force, and the backers will help grow the company. The company will be able to support a larger team of developers, and just be much better at creating this technology.

Here is the link to the Indiegogo campaign.