Basic Income is Already Here, It's Just Called Digital Nomadism
|Venkatesh Rao||Jun 17, 2016|
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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