Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash | What if we could regain control of our own data?

The Blockchain of Basic Income is Really about Owning our own Data

Basic Income, Blockchain and Decentralized Marketplaces of Data will collide in the future.

Michael K. Spencer
Apr 15 · 8 min read

The Spirit of Basic Income

Everywhere I look there’s Andrew Yang talking about the coming automation and the prospect of job disruptions. He’s even calling it the greatest economic transformation in our history.

Isn’t that artificial intelligence and blockchain? Isn’t that a new kind of internet that appears becoming manifest with 5G and other 4th industrial revolution like “exponential” technologies?

Basic income is probably not going to exist in a vacuum. The future of basic income might have more to do with blockchain than we think in 2019.

Having total control over our own data and being able to monetize it the way we like would be a more ideal self-sovereign identity freedom and human right. As a futurist, it’s hard for me not seeing this coming before 2030.

Cryptoeconomics will be Implemented in New Ways

Could our data form the basis of a new universal basic income? In the internet information era data has been repeatedly compared to being the new “oil”.

The optimism of the 1990s of the early internet isn’t lost on decentralization natives and blockchain engineers that envision the internet being good again. Data ownership and being able to monetize and incentive new kinds of participation is at the core of many cryptoeconomic principles.

The financial crisis of 2008 brought in the U.S. the 14 million existing manufacturing jobs (itself a low plateau from the 17 million in 2000) down to 11.4 million. Now multiply that be a factor of 3–5x times many other areas (industries) such as transportation, retail, finance, fast food and marketing/media/sales and you get an idea of what the automation crisis of the next twenty years might feel like.

Automation will necessitate New Models of Data Ownership and Exchange

While AI and machine learning will definately be taking jobs away and making many of the tasks we do today redundant, they will also be adding new jobs. That being said, the internet is moving towards greater security, surveillance, privacy, decentralization and yes, data ownership. It’s a bit paradoxical that these will coexist but all to say the internet is evolving.

Thankfully Big Data and blockchain will both be evolving simultaneously. As Deep learning goes, so does deep sharding enter the room (but more on that later).

Basic income will also have to evolve with the times. According to an estimate by McKinsey Global Institute, more than 800 million workers worldwide could lose their jobs to automation by 2030 alone.

Information, Data and Incentives will also be transformed

We don’t know the form that next iteration of basic income might take, but we have a hunch data ownership could be a significant piece of the puzzle. It’s the token curating truth of the world we will likely live in. In a world of AI, journalists and media, advertising, marketing agencies and PR companies might not exist like they do today.

Forbes | Harmony One is Silicon Valley’s answer to data ownership.

Startups like TruStory and Harmony Protocol envision a different world than the world that exists that we have today. If TruStory is about figuring out what’s true online, the Harmony Protocol is about creating a scalable architecture for our decentralized future.

Blockchain at the intersection of Basic Income is a Singularity for Capitalism

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is the idea that citizens receive a regular, unconditional stipend that helps them cover their cost of living. Harmony’s team is looking seriously into how global citizens could own, control and monetize their own data on the blockchain.

We all know companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon make billions of dollars in profits every year by leveraging all of the data created by their users. In the future with scalable blockchain architectures, competing self sovereign identity systems will help people take back control of their data as a potential stream of income.

This should be exciting especially for those of us who might experience job insecurity and economic uncertainty in the years ahead.

If you think about it, Medium going behind a paywall to allow payouts to writers is in a sense a precursor to how this might work with our data on the future of the blockchain. The concept is the same, for what we give, we are rewarded.

Photo by Hitesh Choudhary on Unsplash

Data has always been the key

As of the spring of 2019, there’s a number of companies are building decentralized platforms that aim to pay people for sharing their data. It’s one of the use cases of blockchain that’s a bit like a holy grail of scalability, decentralization and trust to build a better internet.

Technology is always a work in progress and just as basic income is a good idea in theory, in practice it’s a great idea with our data. This is because data is part of our currency in this new virtual world. Everytime we do something online, we are exchanging data and leaving traces of our preferences that can be monetized by Advertising leaders and brands.

We’ve always been the product

We are not isolated digital identities, on the internet we are all consumers with a certain value. It’s ironic isn’t it? We are those same consumers, those very same workers who find their livelihoods most at risk in this coming era of automation, will be also those consumers who today provide some of the world’s largest companies with the data they need to grow and profit.

Blockchain architectures that can help manage our self sovereign identity will be able to enable us to have control over our data online. This will involve many layers, many choices many potential platforms, payments systems, basic services, utilities, access to convenience and online transactions. Welcome to what the token economy will become. There, in that future world, basic income and AI live together as intermediaries of our participation in society.

There will be a harmonious balance between AI augmenting people and our participation in society and blockchain being a trustworthy intermediary of how we are compensated for not just our work but our digital identities and the data we create of value.

The era of self sovereign identity is coming

In that future, blockchain and the Cloud are intermeshed, 5G and decentralized communities are both a reality. AI and personal assistants have access to even greater degrees of our personal and private data. New tools will allow us to have more control over how it’s distributed as well. In the future a rather large component of our basic income will likely come in the form of how we barter our data to get access not just a monetary stipend but a wide range of bundles, services, or subsidized loans for things like housing, education and healthcare.

GDRP and Article 13 (“Meme Ban”) are just very small steps to a different kind of internet. Data ownership is the goal, scalable blockchain is the means, privacy is a positive benefit of that more secure reality. Blockchain is a trust mechanisms and data could fuel a realistic basic income in a coming world of ubiquitous AI. There’s nothing terribly mysterious about it. As one model of the internet fails, a new one takes its place.

Decentralization could augment Freedom online

Blockchain doesn’t just enable things like the right to data portability but the ability to monetize all of that data, all of that incredible amount of detail on us that companies like Facebook possess.

In the future it will be a basic human right to have total ownership of how it is used. Facebook’s business model might completely fall apart due to the decentralized changes that a scalable blockchain architecture will provide. That’s what makes cryptoeconomics a huge potential tool for good as we learn to cope with automation in the decades ahead.

Data isn’t intrinsically valuable on its own which is why scalable blockchain design will enable a drastically different marketplace of our data. Such a decentralized internet will be less about centralized companies harvesting , distributing and weaponizing data for Ads, but more about transactions, services and a freedom of global citizens to instead be in control.

That’s indeed a radically different internet than then one we have in place today.

Blockchain must overcome its limitations

As sharding evolves and as layered protocols refine themselves, throughput bottlenecks will be solved. It could be Ethereum or it could more likely be a newer blockchain startup that arrives at that kind of blockchain architecture singularity. Harmony is attempting to implement a deep sharing mechanism to solve the scalability problem of public blockchains.

Deep Sharing + Basic Income = A world where we can monetize our data in a fairer marketplace.

In that future, the internet that’s more like a decentralized marketplace than a bunch of clusters around legacy platforms like Facebook & Google.

Basic income might be a surprisingly powerful call to action for the internet to improve itself. Technological automation might set in motion a chain of events that leads to cryptoeconomic conditions whereby decentralized ownership of our own data isn’t only possible, it’s preferable to the global economy.

Basic income will continue to evolve

The idea of crypto backed universal basic incomes is not new. Circles, Mannabase, Group Currency, BrightID — and so many others have been hard at work at it. However, few of these teams have the engineering talent and VC funding of a startup like Harmony situated smack in Silicon Valley.

Even the startup accelerator Y Combinator, has long been ruminating about the potential of how cryptocurrencies and basic income could one day work together.

For basic income trials on our data, the right blockchain architecture scalability needs to be achieved and then a lot of other things can quickly fall into place. We are likely a few years out from that reality. But just imagine the difference it would make?

Imagine a world where instead of large corporations, instead everyone in the world would have the exclusive right to their own data in a secure and holistic decentralized marketplace of our data.

The brave new world of the future of crypto might be tied to basic income

It would certainly be a different internet.

It would be a vision of the future where basic income, blockchain, AI and a secure freedom would all have their place supporting people and global citizens and treating them as equals and not just as data to be harvested, exploited, sold and extracted.

In such a world, decentralized access to services and the bartering of our data would be fluid, and a basic income would not just be a lump sum, but part of a virtual currency where our data would be a bargaining chip to a better world. A healthier world that actually rewards us for our participation online.

A world where the internet itself provides us with a basic income. You have to admit it’s an intriguing thought, it’s also a highly likely future scenario.


Discovering the optimal lifestyle of the future.

Michael K. Spencer

Written by

Blockchain Mark Consultant, tech Futurist, prolific writer. LinkedIn: michaelkspencer


Discovering the optimal lifestyle of the future.