Basic Income is Already Here, It's Just Called Digital Nomadism
Basic Income and lifestyle businesses are both big topics in any discussion of the Breaking Smart future. In this guest issue of our newsletter, lifestyle business veteran and long-time friend and reader Steven Moody, who runs beachhead.io out of Vietnam, argues that the lifestyles pioneered by expat lifestyle designers in hotspots such as Southeast Asia are actually a good preview of what a future built around universal basic income might look like.
Digital nomads, illustration by Venkat
1/ Digital nomads show us what a world of universal basic income (UBI) would look like
2/ In the aughts most nomads started on the Tim Ferriss global arbitrage bandwagon after reading The Four Hour Work-Week (4HWW)
3/ This led to a cluster focused on colonization of the SEO frontier online and the SE Asia scene offline
4/ But most of them failed to read the last chapter of 4HWW, "filling the void."
5/ It turns out winning the game of paying rent is easy when you lower your costs 90%
6/ Then you're left with this question of the void.
7/ Some fill the void by becoming a flat type, such as "the guy who always drinks tequila"
8/ Others expand their horizons and strive to prove they are unique snowflakes
9/ But the early digital colonizers were rarely snowflakes
10/ They were either arbitragers or pre-digital nomads dragged reluctantly online.
11/ Then Instagram happened, bringing the "void first" people online.
12/ Instagram enabled snowflakes to gain attention by being the most unique snowflake.
13/ The top businesses on Instagram still are health, fitness, beauty: snowflake empires.
14/ And with travel the nomad part became legible to the snowflake tribe.
15/ Vietnam changed from the jungle of 1970s Rambo to a hipster cafe scene
16/ Colombia buried the Escobar era and Cuba (on Instagram) will soon forget Castro
17/ With the legible scene came a new kind of nomad: the digital snowflake.
18/ The cost of starting a hipster cafe runs 5-6 figures but the cost of starting a hipster Instagram is nothing
19/ So the digital snowflakes started a variety of digital snowflake businesses in different parts of the world
20/ These businesses usually don't make the F U money of a soulless 4HWW type arbitrager
21/ But they keep the owner engaged in the finite game of lifestyle business, and the infinite game of paying rent
22/ The last crowd to arrive on the digital nomad scene were eternal students
23/ When education is mostly free (Germany) there is a startling number of 30-somethings finishing advanced degrees to nowhere (debt free)
24/ But the student lifestyle prepared them for the nomad lifestyle, so they find they can keep it going by traveling abroad
25/ Their game is not yet determined: many embrace one of the previous tribes but some may create a not yet known new tribe
26/ But the travel lifestyle is a red herring obscuring the real motivations of digital nomads
27/ Travel was a means to self-actualize and the desire to colonize or to explore for some, or to belong or even just pay the bills for others.
28/ UBI would create a world much like that of the digital nomads but with less actual nomadism
29/ Armed with enough money to cover rent, we would see more of the same clusters:
30/ The arbitrager will always arbitrage; the colonizer will always colonize
31/ The instagram snowflake is always gonna snowflake
32/ Innovation will continue to come from what looks like toys made by tinkerers, tinkerers who fill the void by tinkering
33/ And this is the best argument for UBI: like making FU money, receiving UBI doesn't make you an asshole, it makes you a truer reflection of your real self.
34/ UBI would create a void for more people, and with it more psychosis, but also more eureka moments.
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Check out the 20 Breaking Smart Season 1 essays for the deeper context behind this newsletter. If you're interested in bringing the Season 1 workshop to your organization, get in touch. You can follow me on Twitter @vgr
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