Mark Cuban calls universal basic income 'one of the worst possible responses' to robot automation


Mark Cuban

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Economists predict robotic automation and advances in artificial intelligence could lead to widespread job loss in the coming decades, but billionaire investor Mark Cuban doesn't think universal basic income (UBI) is the solution.

The Dallas Mavericks owner tweeted on February 20 that basic income is "one of the worst possible responses" to the threat of worker displacement.

UBI is a system of income distribution in which everyone receives a set amount of money, on a regular basis, just for being alive. People can use the money however they want, but the overall goal is to boost people's well-being and reduce poverty over the long term.

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Cuban told Business Insider via email that he sees UBI as a "slippery slope," as it can invite a number of hard-to-resolve questions about its implementation. "Should I get UBI? Who doesn't get it? How much? Who pays for it How?" he said.

He issued the criticism after a prominent UBI advocate, writer Scott Santens, replied to one of Cuban's tweets that included an article about the threat of robot-driven job loss.


"Automation is going to cause unemployment and we need to prepare for it," Cuban wrote.

Santens replied to Cuban welcoming him aboard "Team #BasicIncome," though Cuban quickly rebuked Santens to clarify he doesn't endorse UBI.

The two went back and forth as Santens questioned if Cuban had read the research finding entrepreneurship may increase in areas receiving UBI. Cuban said he had.

However, he suggested that the research on UBI - typically carried out in developing countries - might not yield the same outcomes as real policy in developed nations.

More preferable to Cuban is beefing up job-creating programs like Americorps, a federally-subsidized program that slots workers in full- or part-time positions, he said. President Trump recently announced Americorps is one of the programs he's considering shutting down.


"There are plenty of communities that need social support services that can be filled by qualified people who can add value," he told Business Insider.

Cuban isn't the only tech entrepreneur who has expressed doubt in an American UBI model.

In December of 2016, Sam Altman, president of Silicon Valley's largest startup accelerator, Y Combinator, told Business Insider that Americans may not warm up to the idea of paid unemployment.

The math may work out, he said, but "what's unclear to me, is will people be net-happier or are we just so dependent on our jobs for meaning and fulfillment?"

Altman, like many tech executives, is mostly pro-UBI. Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes and Tesla CEO Elon Musk are among the idea's supporters. In the fall of 2016, Altman launched a trial version of his own UBI experiment in Oakland, California. A larger study will take place later this year if the experiment is deemed a success.


In his tweets, Cuban disagreed that people will necessarily get "punished" for finding jobs, as Santens alleged.

"The key to making it work and the obvious challenge is making Gov far more efficient," Cuban said in his email.

He called for bundling government remuneration programs, such as Americorps and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and passing the savings onto qualified recipients.

"Just deposit the money in their accounts," he said.