Universal Basic Income is one of the most cross-culturally appealing political movements of the modern era. It has attracted the support of thinkers from every background including Thomas Paine, Martin Luther King Jr, Stephen Hawking, Guy Standing, Milton Friedman, and David Graeber. It is seen as a utopian project that could finally unlock the creative potential of all people, the culmination of centuries-old humanist ideals.
The topic of UBI has exploded in popularity in recent years, as wealth inequality grows and inflation-adjusted wages fall all across the world. Until now, the conversation has primarily been viewed through the lens of public policy and bureaucratic action. Public support for the idea of UBI has never been higher, but plans for implementation are progressing slowly and without cooperation at the international scale. It seems that UBI systems have received a “too big to implement” label at the highest levels of government, similar to climate change action, making development and rollout unlikely to happen any time soon.
The introduction of global blockchain networks changes the conversation about UBI significantly. Now for the first time in history, it is trivially easy to create financial applications that are universally accessible to anyone on the internet. Starting with Bitcoin and moving on to smart contract platforms like Ethereum, blockchain technology has achieved widespread popularity by routing around the gatekeepers and roadblocks that make innovation so difficult in the legacy financial system. Smart contracts and the blockchain create a very promising environment in which to implement a new UBI system.
Circles proposes to be the blockchain’s native UBI money system. It has its own built-in resistance to Sybil attacks (i.e. fake accounts) and anyone can join the network at any time without asking permission from anyone. It has been designed with the expectation that it will be bootstrapped in a completely organic and grassroots fashion, but is extensible to allow any arbitrary governance systems to operate on top of the base protocol. Circles is an entirely new way of looking at the nature of money and what value exchange means in a post-UBI future.
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