Mark Zuckerberg calls for exploring basic income in Harvard commencement speech
In his Harvard commencement speech on Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg advocated exploring a system in which all people receive a standard salary just for being alive, no questions asked.
The system, known as universal basic income, is one of the trendiest economic theories of the past few years. Experiments in basic income have popped up in Kenya, the Netherlands, Finland, Canada, and San Francisco, California, among other places.
Basic-income advocates say the changing nature of work — from human labor to artificially intelligent robots — combined with rising wealth inequality signal the need for an overhaul of how money is distributed.
"We should have a society that measures progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful," Zuckerberg told the crowd. "We should explore ideas like universal basic income to make sure everyone has a cushion to try new ideas."
The statement was Zuckerberg's first public endorsement of the idea, which makes him somewhat late to the party, as far as Silicon Valley goes. Tech executives like Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Y Combinator President Sam Altman, and Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes — who runs a basic-income fund called the Economic Security Project — have endorsed basic income.
Many point to economic forecasts that say robots will displace much of the human workforce in the coming decades. A report from Oxford University in 2013, for instance, found that about 50% of jobs could be taken over within the next 10 to 20 years. A McKinsey report released in 2015 backed up that prediction, suggesting that today's technology could feasibly replace 45% of jobs right now.
"As our technology keeps on evolving, we need a society that is more focused on providing continuous education through our lives," Zuckerberg said. "And yes, giving everyone the freedom to pursue purpose isn't going to be free. People like me should pay for it, and a lot of you are going to do really well, and you should, too."
< The challenge of our generation is creating a world where everyone has a sense of purpose (..) Purpose is that feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself, that you are needed, that you have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness (...) Every generation expands its definition of equality (...) now, it's our time to define a new social contract. We should have a society that measurees progress not just by economic metrics like GDP, but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful. We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new ideas (...) We all are going to make mistakes, so we need a society that's less focussed on locking us up or stigmatizing us when we do. And as technology keeps on evolving, we need a society that is more focused on providing continuous education throughout our lives (...) Every generation expands the circle of people we considere "one of us". And in our generation, that now includes the whole world (...) This is the struggle of our time: the forces of freedom, openness, and global community against the forces of authoritarianism, isolationism, and nationalism; forces fot the flow of knowledge, trade, and inmigration against those who would close them down (...) Change starts local. Even global changes start small - with people like us > #MarkZuckerbergHarvardCommencement