Raising the Floor by Andy Stern, Universal Basic Income, US economy

Raising the Floor: A convincing case for a universal basic income (for those with patience)

Raising the Floor by Andy Stern, Universal Basic Income, US economy

Before reading Raising the Floor, by Andy Stern, former head of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), I had little reason to support the idea of a Universal Basic Income. It seemed a politically impossible idea fraught with the same risks of abuse that plague our current welfare system. But by the end of the book, I came away with a much more positive view towards an idea that not only seems possible but, in a lot of ways, inevitable in our job-scarce future.

For those new to the concept of UBI, it would provide a small stipend to each citizen, regardless of income. This year, Switzerland offered a referendum on a national UBI, which was narrowly defeated. A UBI would serve as a safety net so that citizens can seek meaningful work without having to take a paycheck at a soul-crushing job just to pay the bills. At first, it basically just sounds like an expanded version of our current welfare system without preconditions. But as Stern explains it, the UBI serves more as an impetus and mechanism for average Americans to become more responsible and entrepreneurial with their lives.

A fair warning: The book is slow-going at first. Stern takes a while (3/4 of the book to be more accurate) to actually get to the subject of the UBI. I spent pages wondering when he was going to get to it and why a book that’s supposed to be about UBI only contains about 50 pages delving into the topic. But just as a good thriller spends an hour setting up the plot, only to destroy you with the climax, Stern uses the first three-quarters of the book to set up a terrifying vision of our future world.

Johnny Five, Short Circuit, automation, robots

In short: The robots are coming!

That’s right. It’s not too surprising to find out that automation will make most jobs scarce in the future since it’s already happening. Just as the computer destroyed the typewriter industry and the internet is killing print journalism, the same will happen to industries such as transportation (self-driving cars), retail and manufacturing (consumer 3-D printing), and even healthcare (direct-care robots-yes, really). But the shocking part might be how soon this will happen. We’ve read about Tesla and Google’s attempts at perfecting the self-driving car and the spread of 3D printing. While these technologies aren’t fine-tuned enough to truly disrupt our economy, they’ll get there within five years. Once self-driving vehicles are a reality, you can say goodbye to the truck drivers, who makes up a sizable portion of our nation’s economy. UPS and FedEx will either adapt or be obsolete.

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Gucci Mane, ice cream cone tattoo

What Gucci Mane taught me about the modern marketplace

Gucci Mane, ice cream cone tattoo

The first time I experienced Gucci Mane was in 2008 after an upper scale benefit. You know, the type you pay $100 for a plate and watch people exhibit their money on overpriced auction items. It was for a good cause and everything…

I was there as a teacher, a chaperone watching over my students as they ran the coat room and waited tables. The first year they weren’t able to sample the food, but instead were given lukewarm ghetto pizza. But at least they could eat this year.

You could sense the divisions all night and I was uncomfortable as their white teacher, overly aware that I was kind of part of this. So I over-compensated and spent the night with the kids, tossing out trash, cleaning up the floors, trying to help out. They were more fun anyway.

But that’s not what this article is about.

After the event, I drove a few of the kids back to the bus station at Dudley Square, as far away from my safe, white Newton suburb as you can get. On the way, the kids threw in a CD and cranked it so loud my speakers gasped for air.

Bricks/All White Bricks/Light Tan Bricks/Just Hit A Lick/For 50 More Bricks

My head was ringing from exhaustion and annoyance. Every year I make the statement that rap can’t get any worse than this. Once again I made that statement. This was horrible.

I figured Gucci was just another fad; another Chamillionaire or Chingy or Lil’ Flip. They come and go, these guys, and I assumed the same for Gucci.

Boy was I wrong.

Imagine my surprise when I found that Gucci was even more popular when I moved across the country and began teaching in Arizona. Gucci was still there, saying basically the same thing. Except now, he had an ice cream cone tattooed on his face.

So I started to pay more attention to Gucci, to avoid writing him off as I had before. And I have to say I learned some lessons.

Quantity creates quality

Gucci Mane chains

In the age of the internet everything is impermanent. Today’s water cooler talk is tomorrow’s faded memory. I wonder what people will think ofStranger Things in 5 years. Probably nothing.

This is what Gucci Mane seems to understand. Since I’d first heard him, he’d released a staggering 45 mixtapes along with a dozen or so official albums and EPs. All this while getting arrested a few times a year.

This guy was sure busy.

Gucci understood the concept of frequency and how it relates to today’s media landscape. The more often you release music (or publish) the more popular you become. This same principle applies to blogging (or Medium for that matter) or Tweeting or posting videos on Youtube. The most frequent are usually the winners.

By being frequent, you refuse to let the public forget about you. Madonna may have been the first to fully exploit this when she continually sought out the latest producers to stay relevant (followed by Jay-Z). This wasn’t accidental.

Continue reading “What Gucci Mane taught me about the modern marketplace”