The new coronavirus is slowing down public life and the economy. At the same time, however, I am observing the public discussion expand, especially on Twitter, around two topics that I am very interested in, Remote Work and Universal Basic Income (UBI).
For us lucky knowledge workers who just need a computer and an Internet connection to get work done, remote work was always an option but its global impact was limited. For every successful distributed company, there’s another one believing in “butts in seats”. That may change as at least a fraction of the people who work remotely for the first time may find it works well for them and their employers or clients. They may use this option much more in the future, with all the benefits (i.e., fewer carbon emissions from commuting) that come with it.
On the other hand, there are and always will be people who get work done with their hands and bodies out in the real world. Some of them have to continue working, but others won’t. Direct support to their employers or a reduced tax burden does not reach all of them, especially self-employed workers in the “gig economy”. Handing out cash, on the other hand, does help everyone and may be a stimulus for the economy hit by the coronavirus. It is the right time to give a temporary UBI a try or at least some one-time cash transfers to collect more data points to prove that they work.
Along with my professional interests centered around APIs and developer experience, I have always been curious about the future of work. Every software developer and other person working in IT is in some way (maybe unconsciously) building that future. I believe that the API economy is one of the cornerstones of a world that Pieter Levels described as billions of self-employed makers and a few mega-corporations. We already have the latter, but for the former to thrive, we need UBI as a safety net. And they will be working remotely.
If there’s anything good coming from the current crisis, maybe it’s kickstarting the conversations about the essential topics for the future.