£1,600 per month is set to be paid to participants in a “Universal Basic Income (UBI) ‘micro pilot scheme’” – the first such trial in England.
A total of 30 people from central Jarrow in Tyne & Wear and East Finchley in north London will be studied to assess the effect receiving UBI has on their mental and physical health. A control group, who won’t be paid the UBI, will also be monitored.
Participants will be randomly selected from a pool of volunteers, with 20% of places reserved for people with disabilities.
At the time of writing, the trial has yet to begin, as funding hasn’t been secured, but it is expected to come from local/combined authorities, or ‘private philanthropic sources.’
In Wales, a scheme is already underway which pays this same monthly amount of money (£1,600) to young people leaving Care. (I have to resist the urge to put ironic quotation marks around that last word; but perhaps it’s a slightly less nauseating phrase than the mealy-mouthed ‘looked-after children’.)
While the stated aim is to support young Care-leavers, rather than advance the UBI concept, the Welsh government acknowledges that the two-year pilot scheme is a ‘contribution to a global movement’ as one of around eighty UBI trials taking place globally.
The mooted UBI trial is the brain-child of ‘independent, progressive’ think-tank Autonomy, ‘from just transitions to deprivation analytics’ whose focus is the future of work, economic planning, and climate change.
Autonomy generates public support for its UBI initiative through the ‘Basic Income Conversation’, which looks to ‘push forward unconditional cash transfers within social and economic policy.’
They are also agitating for a UBI trial in Cornwall, which could involve 2,000 people.
There’s an old saying, attributed to Aesop – ‘A man is known by the company he keeps.’ (I know we’re all grown-up enough here to know the word ‘man’ in this sentence means ‘person’.) With that in mind, it is very instructive to look at the organisations behind schemes like these, and their founders, funders, partners and advisors, for clues about what their agenda might be.
Autonomy’s ‘Tackling Poverty: the power of a universal basic income’ report details a 13 month study ending August 2022, funded by a generous grant from the Wellcome Trust, assessing the prospective impacts of a universal basic income on anxiety and depression among 14-24 year olds. (Interestingly, UBI is being framed as a potential preventative public health strategy.)
The Wellcome Trust’s Mental Health Priority Team also provided support to this research project, which involved a multidisciplinary team including the Royal Society of Arts, ( which ran workshops to quiz young people about their finances and their attitude towards UBI), members from academia, and a consultancy company.
The ‘Tackling Poverty’ report was ‘powered’ by the Labour-party affiliated pressure group Compass, whose board members include a former employee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Other partners on the study were ActEarly and Born in Bradford (BiB), one of the largest research studies in the world, involving 60,000 Bradford residents, including more than 13,500 children, whose health is tracked from in utero through childhood and into adulthood.
BiB researchers go into local primary schools and induce children to complete a gamified assessment using a touch-screen computer and stylus pen. The children then fill in a questionnaire about their well-being and happiness, about ‘how they feel about their lives, about their family and where they live, their schools, their friends, about the kinds of things they own (clothes, phones) and the kind of job they would like as an adult’.
BiB would really like to link the results of these assessments to education data routinely collected by the school.
Teachers in years 3, 4, and 5 also complete a questionnaire on the behavioural and emotional development of each child in the class.
It’s all allegedly totally confidential and will only be used for research, and the assessment information will be analysed anonymously and the results reported anonymously.
So it’s all good in the hood!
BiB also works with local secondary schools (who get £500 a year for taking part) to embed the research into the school curriculum, with yet more ‘health and wellbeing’ surveys, height and weight measurements, movement and memory assessments, and biological samples taken from the young people.
But back to Autonomy.
Beyond articles about ‘petro-masculinity’ and ‘fossil violence’, sitting alongside pieces labelling women who question the sex- and pornography-industry as SWERFs (‘sex-worker exclusionary radical feminist’) and ‘whorephobic’, Autonomy’s serious emphasis is less on the future of work than a future without much work, ie – rethinking work, a shorter working week, a post-work future, how some radical characters from the past thought having a job properly sucked, how work is inherently risky because it exposes you to potentially deadly viruses, etc.
It’s almost as though they foresee tens of millions of jobs worldwide being lost in the ongoing shift in the division of labour from humans to machines and algorithms.
On Autonomy’s board of advisors is Professor Helen Hestor, who teaches Gender, Technology and Cultural Politics at the University of West London, and is a founder member of ‘xenofeminist collective’ Laboria Cuboniks, a transhumanist/posthumanist outfit aiming to ‘infect a wide range of fields…’
to dismantle gender, destroy ‘the family,’ and do away with nature as a guarantor for inegalitarian political positions’
Hey, at least they’re upfront about it, right?
They’re also keen to:
invest in alienation and the anti-natural, in seizing technology and in embracing the desire for an alien future’.
Isn’t that a wonderfully inspiring prospect? You can also check out their deeply unsettling 20 minute video here. (Sorry; it requires you to log in before watching.) But don’t worry too much, Laboria Cuboniks don’t want to get rid of nature per se, just nature as a guarantor for inegalitarian political positions, and stuff.
Honestly, nature is so out of order, doing that! I’m sure we’d all acknowledge the huge progress made over the last few years in the attempt to dismantle gender, and as for getting rid of ‘the family,’ (in inverted commas) well, once The Science has perfected its synthetic human embryo and artificial womb technologies, and straightened out any qualms about ethics, the parentless lab-grown babies can be raised in Care, with subsistence (digital) cash transfers once they reach adulthood!
No families, jobs, or gender required!
This ‘gender abolitionist, anti-naturalist, technomaterialist form of posthumanism’ is starkly at odds with Autonomy director Will Stronge’s sales-pitch of how UBI will ‘alleviate poverty and boost millions of people’s wellbeing’ or mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham saying “[a] universal basic income will put a solid foundation beneath everybody so that they can have a life with security and stop worrying about everything”
In fact it’s rather comic (in a surreal jet-black comedy way) & more people need to be aware of it so we can share the joke.
Stephanie Sherman is an Autonomy research affiliate and the associate director at Antikythera, based at the Berggruen Institute in Los Angeles, who think that ‘the very meaning of the human is fragmenting.’
Antikythera is funded by Asana co-founder (and co-creator of the ‘like’ button) Justin Rosenstein, former product leader at Google and Facebook, through his non-profit ‘One Project’.
One Project says it wants to create:
new social operating systems that leverage and cultivate the wisdom of humanity, fulfil the promise of democracy, and create a fairer, more abundant future.’
Laboria Cuboniks founder Helen Hestor is an Antikythera collaborator, together with a host of other people with some interesting areas of expertise, such as virtual reality engineering ‘to benefit humanity’ or writing philosophical critiques of the dominant trends in posthumanism or helping you keep the kids entertained while under those lockdowns with an ‘educational’ augmented reality app they made earlier.
Antikythera wants to ‘reorient planetary computation as a philosophical, technological, and geopolitical force.’ Their research focuses on…
synthetic intelligence, synthetic experience, artificial language, machine sensing technologies, strategic scenario modelling, climate modelling, digital twins, cellular/genomic simulations, and the prospects of planetary governance’
…which sounds, like, totally in-keeping with the principles of an equitable, ecological, kinder, more abundant society, full of solidarity and love for all beings, doesn’t it?
In rather the same spirit as the Bank of England promising us that their plan to introduce a ‘Digital Pound’ (otherwise known as Central Bank Digital Currency. Have your say here before the end-of-June deadline) is not an attempt to phase out cash or to monitor what citizens are buying, the architects of the UBI scheme are quick to assure us that the monthly bung would be unconditional: those eligible get the money regardless of other income, and can spend it on whatever they want.
This deal seems, in a sense, straightforward.
The participants get £400 a week and Autonomy and other interested parties get lots and lots of very valuable data (ranging, no doubt, from stunning new insights into how an adequate income is jolly useful for not feeling anxious, depressed and desperate at having to ration heating and hot water in the winter and skipping meals in order to feed your children, to much more in-depth granular data).
Considering how most of us, mainly through smartphone ownership, give up our personal data 24/7 for free, that might seem like a good deal. All of the information collected from the trial will be used to prove that the roll-out of UBI is ‘evidence based’ and to lobby government and attract those venture philanthropists.
Can anyone else smell impact investment? Remember, social impact bonds began in England.
As with most of the issues we face, the subject of UBI is a complex one. There’s lots to be considered about the very concept of a UBI, and whether the enthusiastic adoption of the idea by creepy think-tanks negates the possible validity of the concept itself.
As probably comes across pretty clearly from the last umpteen hundred words, I’m not an economist. I’m a writer. I do have a bit of experience with low-paid jobs, and I’ve been on the receiving end of the benefits system, and the Care system.
I’ve experienced the exploding cost of a weekly food shop, and winters of tenner top-ups hitting the gas meter like snowflakes hitting a brazier. And for the last three-and-a-bit-years, my brain has been constantly, obsessively, incessantly searching for ideas, solutions, ways out, ways around, survival tactics, plans, ways to try to thrive, damnit, in the midst of the collective trauma from the sadistic insanity that was visited upon us in Spring 2020, when the velvet gloves came off.
But at no point during that time did I ever think “ooh, what I need is to become dependent on hand-outs from the weird public-private hybrid State-franchise entity.”
My desire is to become as independent from the State as possible, and that’s an ongoing process. I’d no sooner take UBI than I’d take a semi-synthetic pathogen injection. The worry (well, one of them) is that there may come a time in the future when that choice is taken away from us.
Indeed, Will Stronge’s confident assertion that ‘society is going to require some form of basic income’ as a ‘crucial part of securing livelihoods in the future’ and Klaus Schwab & co deploying their ‘precision safety nets’ to save us from ‘destitution’ suggest that they see that time coming too.
To people living in poverty, perhaps particularly living with the demoralising, dispiriting experience of claiming Universal Credit, the idea of a relatively generous, non-means-tested UBI could seem, on the surface, almost humane, even though the largesse is so uncharacteristic as to be suspicious.
The ‘free money, no strings’ promise could hardly be more enticing, especially in times like these. Enticing treats can turn out to be the bait in a trap. It might not be a metal-spike-through-the-belly type trap; it might be the type where you get to eat the piece of cheese.
I suppose one’s take on this issue largely comes down to whether one takes things at face value or looks a bit deeper. Are we willing to look under the surface?
Do we trust the motives of organisations who want to recreate the globe as a planetary computer, covered with satellites and drones and sensors and nano-tech, to monitor and control every aspect of nature down to the genomic level, to ‘enable collection and generation of massive data sets every second’ to feed into their ‘regenerative finance’ and human capital marketplaces, while assuring us that it’s all because they care so deeply about Mother Earth?
Do we trust the motives of organisations whose vision is a future without families, without jobs, without human reproduction, and ultimately, without humans?
Read full story here…