A Conversation about Universal Basic Income with John Maynard Keynes and Paul Buchheit

“Spudder,” by Oklahoma artist Betty Sellars, transforms the raw material of the machine age into art.

At the outset of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes penned a remarkable economic prognostication: that despite the ominous storm that was then enfolding the world, mankind was in fact on the brink of solving “the economic problem” — that is, the quest for daily subsistence.

The world of his grandchildren — the world of those of us living today — would, “for the first time…be faced with [mankind’s] real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.”


       子孙后代的世界——我们现在生活的世界——将要“首次……面对人类真正的,永恒的问题—— 如何利用自己关心紧迫经济的自由,如何拥有自由,科学和复利将会帮他赢得智慧快乐和健康的生活。”


It didn’t turn out quite as Keynes imagined. Sure enough, after a punishing Depression and a great World War, the economy entered a period of unparalleled prosperity. But in recent decades, despite all the remarkable progress of business and technology, that prosperity has been very unevenly distributed. Around the world, the average standard of living has increased enormously, but in modern developed economies, the middle class has stagnated, and for the first time in generations, our children may be worse off than we are. Once again, we face what Keynes called “the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants,” with consequent political instability and uncertain business prospects.

But Keynes was right. The world he imagined, where “the economic problem” is solved is, in fact, still before us. Global poverty has sunk to all time lows, and, if only we play our cards right, we could still enter the world Keynes envisioned.

Technology and free trade have greatly reduced poverty in the world, even as they have created economic challenges for workers in developed countries.





As Max Roser, creator of Our World in Data, notes: “Even in 1981 more than 50% of the world population lived in absolute poverty — this is now down to about 14%. This is still a large number of people, but the change is happening incredibly fast. For our present world, the data tells us that poverty is now falling more quickly than ever before in world history.”

Much of Keynes’ essay, entitled “Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren,” concerns the issue of what people will do with their time when productivity has increased to the point where the machines do all the work.

That question has resurfaced in today’s discussions about Universal Basic Income. Fabled labor leader Andy Stern left his job as the head of the SEIU to write a book making the case for UBI; Y Combinator Research is planning a pilot program in Oakland, CA; and the question of Universal Basic Income has actually come to a vote in Switzerland. The proposal was soundly defeated, but the fact that it was considered seriously tells us how far the idea has come since it was proposed by Thomas Paine in 1795, and more recently by Milton Friedman in 1962 (and Paul Ryan in 2014.)

《用数据看世界》的作者麦克斯·罗斯 写道:即使在1981年世界上有一半人生活在绝对贫困处境中——现在这一数据下降到14%左右。 人数依旧庞大, 但变化发生之快,令人难以置信。 对于现在的世界,数据告诉我们,贫困下降的速度之快前所未有。”


今天讨论到统一基本工资,这一问题又浮出水面。 传说中的工党领袖安迪·斯特恩辞去了SEIU工会主管一职,写了 一本书,为UBI提供了充足的理由; Y Combinator 研究会正在加州奥克兰市做一个 试点项目计划;而瑞士实际上已经进行过统一基本收入的投票了。 虽然这个提议被彻底否决,但有人对这一想法深思熟虑,反复推敲的事实的事实提醒我们,我们已经达臻甚远 这一议题最早1975年由托马斯·派恩提出,近些年 米尔顿·弗里德曼在1962提过(保罗·莱恩在2014也再次提到。))


Raising the Floor

I’d like to talk through some key paragraphs from Keynes’ essay, and reflect on their truth as seen in today’s headlines. Think of this as the conversation I’d be having with Keynes if he were still around to have it. Then I’ll weave in some thoughts from a recent conversation with Y Combinator’s Paul Buchheit about these same ideas. These are half-formed thoughts, not polished conclusions. I’d welcome your feedback!

Keynes’ essay opens:

“We are suffering just now from a bad attack of economic pessimism. It is common to hear people say that the epoch of enormous economic progress which characterised the nineteenth century is over; that the rapid improvement in the standard of life is now going to slow down; that a decline in prosperity is more likely than an improvement in the decade which lies ahead of us. I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, not from the rheumatics of old age, but from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another….”


我想从凯恩斯的文章中谈几段关键的, 反思一下其真实性,这些言论经常出现在今天的头条上。 如果凯恩斯还在世界上能对话的话,就把这看做是我俩的对话吧。 我和Y Combinatorg公司的保罗·布赫海特谈到了这些相同的点子,其间萌生的想法我也会写下来。 这些都是不成熟的想法, 不是精雕细琢的结论。欢迎你们提出反馈意见!


“我们正遭受着经济悲观主义的残酷袭击。 常听人言,十九世纪的迅猛经济发展时代已经终结; 生活水平的飞速改善也再日趋缓慢; 未来十年,繁荣昌盛会江河日下,而不是蒸蒸日上。 我觉得,这个对我们周遭事情的解读错得离谱。 我们是在遭受痛苦,但这种痛苦不是年迈而患上的风湿病, 而是来自过快变化带来的生长之痛, 来自两个经济周期彼此再调整的痛苦……”


The Rise of the Robots and The Rise and Fall of American Growth both describe “headwinds” that may limit future wages for workers.

Sure enough, we are indeed once again hearing the chorus of pessimism and doubt. Automation is going to destroy white collar jobs in the same way it once destroyed factory jobs.We have an economy that relies on growth, but the age of growth is over. We are in the age of “secular stagnation.” And so on.

Keynes presciently gave a new name to the heart of our current angst:

“We are being afflicted with a new disease of which some readers may not yet have heard the name, but of which they will hear a great deal in the years to come — namely, technological unemployment. This means unemployment due to our discovery of means of economising the use of labour outrunning the pace at which we can find new uses for labour. But this is only a temporary phase of maladjustment.”

《机器人的崛起》 和《美国经济的兴衰》 都描述到,“经济逆风”可能会限制工人以后的工资。

果然,我们的确再次听到悲观质疑之声不绝于耳。自动化将摧毁白领的工作,就像它曾经摧毁了工厂的工作。我们有一个依赖经济增长的经济体, 但是 经济增长的时代结束了。我们现在处于 “长期停滞”时代。” 种种论调,不一而足。


我们遭受着一种新型疾病的折磨,一些读者目前或许还闻所未闻, 但是 再过几年,读者会耳熟能详,这种疾病就是技术性失业。这种失业意即,我们寻求精简劳动力方法的速度,超过了为劳动力找到新工作途径的步伐。 但这只是一个暂时的失调期。”


Like Keynes, I remain optimistic. If we play our cards right, this can be only “a temporary phase of maladjustment.” There may be enormous dislocation, but we will come through it in the end. Keynes wrote:

“The prevailing world depression, the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants, the disastrous mistakes we have made, blind us to what is going on under the surface….”

“The enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants.” I love that phrase! As Nick Hanauer has said to me, “Technology is the solution to human problems. As long as we haven’t run out of problems, we won’t run out of work.”

我和凯恩斯一样保持乐观。 如果我们出手措施准确,这仅仅是“一个暂时的失调期。”” 可能会有巨大的错位, 但最终会顺遂度过。凯恩斯写道:

“低迷萧条席卷全球, 欲望堆积的世界面临巨大的失业异常, 我们犯下的弥天大错, 让我们看不到世界深层次的波澜起伏……”

“欲望堆积的世界面临巨大的失业异常。“我喜欢这个短语!尼克·汉诺尔曾对我说, “技术是人类难题的解决之道。 只要问题还没解决完, 我们的工作就还得继续。”


There is so much left to do: dealing with the enormous transitions to our energy infrastructure that will be required to respond to climate change, the public health challenges of new infectious diseases, the demographic inversion in which a growing class of elders will be supported by a smaller cohort of workers, rebuilding the physical infrastructure of our cities, providing clean water to the world, feeding, clothing, and entertaining 9 billion people

We’ll be exploring these topics and more at the Next:Economy Summit, October 10–11 in San Francisco. Join us.

Note that Nick said “we won’t run out of work,” not “we won’t run out of jobs.” Part of the problem is that “the job” is an artificial construct, in which work is managed and parceled out by corporations and other institutions, to which individuals must apply to participate in doing the work. Financial markets are supposed to reward corporations to pursue work that needs doing. But as Rana Foroohar has noted in her excellent new book Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Decline of American Industry, there is a growing divergence today between what financial markets reward and what the economy really needs.

有许多事情亟待解决:能源基础设施要实现艰难过渡,以应对气候变化, 新型感染疾病对公众健康的威胁, 少数工薪层反哺快速增长的老年人的人口倒置, 重建城市实体基础设施, 为世界提供清洁水, 解决90亿人口的吃饭,穿衣,娱乐问题

10月10-11号,我们将在旧金山 下一站:经济峰会上谈论这些话题。 加入我们.

注意,尼克说的是“我们的工作不会结束,”而不是说“我们不会耗尽工作岗位”。”一个问题是“工作”是一个人工概念, 公司或其他机构管理和分配工作, 个人要向机构申请去参与工作。 孜孜不倦解决当务之急的公司应该受到金融市场奖励。 但是,就像拉娜·弗洛哈尔在她精彩的新书《创造者和攫取者:金融的兴起和美国企业的衰退》 提到的如今,金融市场的奖励和经济发展的需要大相径庭。


Rana Foroohar will be joining us at the Next Economy Summit

Because corporations have different motivations and constraints than individuals, it is possible that a corporation is not able to offer “jobs” even as “work” goes begging. Because of the structure of employment, in uncertain times, companies are hesitant to take on workers until they are sure of demand. And because of the demands of financial markets, companies often find short-term advantage in cutting employment, since driving the stock price gives owners a better return than actually employing people to get work done. Eventually “the market” sorts things out (in theory), and corporations are once again able to offer jobs to willing workers. But there is a lot of unnecessary friction.


因为相对于个人来说,公司有不同的动机和约束,所以即使人们恳求“工作”,公司也不提供“职位”是有可能发生的。在不确定的时期,由于就业结构, 公司直到确定人员需求后才愿意雇用工人。又由于金融市场的需求,公司往往在削减就业中找到短期优势。因为比起实际雇用人工作来说,操动股票价格会给业主一个更好的回报。最终,只有“市场”类事物消失后(理论上),公司才能够再次给工人提供工作岗位。



One of the challenges of the Next Economy is to create new mechanisms that make it easier to connect people and organizations to work that needs doing — a more efficient marketplace for work. And you can argue that that is one of the key drivers at the heart of the on-demand revolution that includes companies like Uber and Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart, Upwork, Handy, TaskRabbit, and Thumbtack. The drawbacks of these platforms in providing consistent income and a social safety net shouldn’t blind us to what does work about them. We need to improve these platforms so that they truly serve the people who find work through them, not try to turn back the clock to the guaranteed employment structure of jobs in the 1950s.

未来经济的挑战是要创建一种新的机制——一种更高效的市场工作环境 ,使得个人和企业的工作连接起来更容易 。你可以认为这是按需革命的核心驱动力,这场革命将包括优步、来福车、DoorDash、Instacart、Upwork、Handy,TaskRabbit、和Thumbtack等一系列公司。这些公司平台提供一致的收入和一种社会安全网络的缺点不应该使我们对他们的工作视而不见。我们需要改善这些平台,使他们真正为通过他们找到工作的人服务。而不是让时光倒流回到50年代保证就业的雇佣结构的时候。


There is also a leadership challenge: to correctly identify work that needs doing. We need companies to take on visionary projects that are not being solved by the market “as it is” but that instead reshape the market. Think of what Elon Musk has done to catalyze new industries with Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity, or what Google did with “access to all the world’s information,” or what the Gates Foundation is doing to eliminate malaria. Markets are not infallible. Government can play a role here, as it did with the Internet, GPS, and the Human Genome Project. And government’s role is not limited just to projects that require coordinated effort beyond the capability of even the largest commercial actors. Government must deal with market failure. This can be the failure of the commons, outright malfeasance by commercial actors, or problems with financial markets such as the the one that is still strangling the economy today.

也有领导力的挑战:为了正确识别需要做的工作,我们需要公司承担有远见的项目,这些项目不是被市场主宰而是要重塑市场。想想Elon Musk做了些什么去催化特斯拉、SpaceX和SelaL城的新产业, 或者谷歌在“获取全球信息”方面的所作所为,又或者盖茨基金会为了消灭疟疾正在做什么。市场并非绝对可靠,政府可以在这里发挥作用,就像互联网、全球定位系统和人类基因组计划一样。政府的作用并不局限于那些所需协调能力超过最大商业行为者的能力的项目,政府必须应对市场失败。这可能是多方的失败,由商业行为者的彻底渎职引起, 或者由那个如今仍在抑制市场的金融市场的问题引起。


But Keynes’ essay gets even more interesting. Let’s repeat the lines quoted above and match them with their conclusion:

“The prevailing world depression, the enormous anomaly of unemployment in a world full of wants, the disastrous mistakes we have made, blind us to what is going on under the surface….for the first time since his creation man will be faced with his real, his permanent problem — how to use his freedom from pressing economic cares, how to occupy the leisure, which science and compound interest will have won for him, to live wisely and agreeably and well.

In a recent conversation, Paul Buchheit, creator of Gmail and now a partner at Y Combinator, said something really provocative: “There may need to be two kinds of money: machine money, and human money. Machine Money is what you use to buy things that are produced by machines. These things are always getting cheaper. Human Money is what you use to buy things that only humans can produce.”


“流行的世界大萧条,世界充满需求但却有反常的大量失业情况,我们犯下的灾难性错误,让我们无法看见涌动的暗流….自从它被创造出来后这是人类第一次将要面对它的真实面目,他的永恒问题 — 如何在紧迫的经济恐惧下使用他的自由,如何占有休闲,哪种科学和复合的利害关系会赢得他,明智而愉快地生活下去。

在最近的谈话中,Gmail的创造者Paul Buchheit现任Y Combinator的合伙人,说了些很具煽动性的话: “可能需要有两种货币:机器货币和人力货币;机器钱是用来买机器制造的东西的这些东西总会越来越便宜,人力货币是用来买只有人类才能生产的东西。”


Paul continued: “The key thing that humans offer that machines do not is ‘authenticity’. You could buy a machine made table from Amazon for cheap, or a hand crafted table from a person for much more (and for real authenticity, we want it to come from a local artisan, not an anonymous factory worker on the other side of the world). In the long term, the price of the former (in machine money) should trend towards zero, but the latter will always cost about the same in human money (some quantity roughly proportional to the number of hours required to make it).”

Paul argues that the right name for what many are calling “Universal Basic Income” should be “the citizen’s dividend.” This concept traces back to ancient Athens, and in America to the writings of Thomas Paine. In Paine’s conception, the dividend was based on shared ownership of natural resources — and this is just what we’ve already seen done in a country like Norway, in Alaska, and in a notable experiment during the 1970s, in a small town in Manitoba.

Thomas Paine’s Agrarian Justice made the appeal for sharing the value of unimproved land with every citizen of the new United States.

Paul继续说道: “人类提供而机器没提供的关键是“可靠性”。你可以从Amazon买到一个便宜的机制桌子,或者用贵得多的价格买一张手工的 (为了真正的可靠性,我们希望它来自当地的工匠,而不是世界另一边的匿名工厂工人)。从长远来看,前者的价格 (机器货币价格) 会趋向于零,但后者一直会花费同样的人力货币 (一些商品数量大体上与生产所需的小时数成正比。).”


Thomas Paine的农业争议呼吁与新美国的每个公民共享未改良土地的价值。


Where Paine argued that every citizen had a right to the underlying value of unimproved land, Buchheit suggests that all of mankind should have some claim on the fruits of technological progress. That is, we should use tax policy to capture some amount of the bounty from machine productivity, and provide that to all people as a stipend with which they can meet the needs of everyday existence. This bounty should be distributed sufficiently that everyone can have enough “Machine Money” to meet their basic needs. Meanwhile, that machine productivity should also provide those goods at ever lower costs, increasing the value of the citizen’s dividend. This is the world of prosperity that Keynes envisioned for his grandchildren.



How might we pay for a Universal Basic Income? The amount required is greater than the cost of all current social programs. In a separate conversation, Y Combinator chief Sam Altman explained that those who argue about how we would pay for it today miss the point. “I am confident that if we need it, we will be able to afford it,” he said at a recent event on UBI at Bloomberg Beta with Andy Stern and the Aspen Institute’s Natalie Foster. One major factor that isn’t being considered, as he expanded on it in our subsequent conversation, is that the possible productivity gains from technology are enormous, and these gains can be used to reduce the cost of any goods produced by machines — what costs $35,000 today might cost $3,500 in a future where the machines have put so many people out of work that a Universal Basic Income is required. This is why Paul argues for “machine money.” In a profound way, its value inflates not as a currency normally inflates, but because the lower costs provided by machine productivity constantly increase its purchasing power.

我们如何支付全世界的基本收入? 所需金额大于当前所有社会项目的费用。在另一次谈话中,Y组合主任Sam Altman解释说那些争论我们今天如何支付它的人忽略了一点。 “我相信,如果我们需要它,我们就能负担得起。” 他在最近和Andy Stern以及阿斯彭研究所的Natalie Foster共同得出的彭博测试版的UBI结果中说道。有一个主要因素未被考虑在内,他在我们后来的谈话中提及到它,就是从技术上获得的生产力可能是巨大的,这些生产力可以用来降低机器生产的任何商品的成本— 今天花费35000美元的东西可能在未来花费3500美元,在机器使这么多人失业的情况下,需要一个全世界的基本收入。这就是为什么保罗主张“机器货币”。从深层次来看,机器货币的价值不会像货币一般膨胀那样膨胀,但是机器生产率所提供的低成本会不断增加其购买力。


What is “Human Money” For?

I love Paul’s distinction between two types of money, but I do wonder whether it’s complete. His notion of Human Money encompasses two very different classes of goods and services: those that involve a true human touch — parenting, teaching, caregiving of all kinds — and those that involve creativity.

Perhaps “Human Money” needs to be further subdivided into “Caring Money” and “Creativity Money.”

Caring is a necessity of life, just as is food and shelter, and should not be denied to anyone in a just society. In an ideal world, caring is a natural outgrowth of family and community, as we care for those we love, but there is also a caring economy of professionals, including teachers, doctors, nurses, eldercare assistants, babysitters, hairdressers, and masseusses. And in a society with an inverted demographic pyramid, in which there are far more of the elderly than young people to support them, as we will see in many developed countries in by 2050, machines may help to fill this gap.






Creativity Money is what we pay for the good things of life beyond the basics. The latest LeBron James basketball shoe. Adele’s “Hello.” The glass of wine with friends. The night out at the movies. The beautiful dress and the sharp suit. Sports, music, art, storytelling, and poetry.

It is a mistake to think that “the creative economy” is limited to entertainment and the arts. People at all levels of society pay a premium over the base cost of goods as a way of expressing and experiencing beauty, status, belonging, and identity. Creativity Money is what someone pays for the difference between a Mercedes C-Class and a Ford Taurus, for a meal at The French Laundry rather than the local French bistro, or at that same bistro rather than at a McDonald’s. It is why those who can afford it pay $5 for an individually crafted cappuccino rather than drinking Folgers instant coffee from a 5-pound can, as our parents did. It is why we pay huge prices or wait years to see Hamilton, while tickets for the local dinner theater are available right now.

创意货币是我们用来支付生活基础之外的美好事物的:最新的LeBron James篮球鞋,阿黛尔的“Hello”,和朋友一起喝酒,出去看通宵电影,漂亮的连衣裙和紧身西装,体育、音乐、艺术、讲故事和诗歌。

认为“创意经济”仅限于娱乐和艺术是错误的,社会各阶层人士支付高于商品基础成本的价格,来表达和体验 美、地位、财富以及身份。创意货币是人们为梅赛德斯C级和福特金牛座的差别、法国洗衣店与本土小酒馆一顿饭的差别或者本土小酒馆与麦当劳一顿饭的差别付的钱,这就是为什么有的人花5美元买一杯单独制作的卡布奇诺,而不是像我们的父母一样从5磅罐里喝Furkes速溶咖啡。这就是为什么当地晚餐剧院的票现在就能买到,我们却花大价钱或等很长时间去看Hamilton。


Creativity Money is the focus of a competition as intense as any that characterizes the Machine Money economy. It is already at the heart of huge swaths of our economy: industries like fashion, real estate, luxury goods, all depend on the competition among people who are already rich to own more, to enjoy or sometimes just to show off their wealth.

In the late 18th century, in his short novel Rasselas, Samuel Johnson wrote: “But for the Pyramids, no reason has ever been given adequate to the cost and labour of the work. The narrowness of the chambers proves that it could afford no retreat from enemies, and treasures might have been reposited at far less expense with equal security. It seems to have been erected only in compliance with that hunger of imagination which preys incessantly upon life, and must be always appeased by some employment. Those who have already all that they can enjoy must enlarge their desires. He that has built for use till use is supplied must begin to build for vanity, and extend his plan to the utmost power of human performance that he may not be soon reduced to form another wish.”


在18世纪晚期,Samuel Johnson在自己的短篇小说Rasselas中写到: “要不是倒金字塔的人口结构,根本没有理由给这份工作这样的劳动回报。市场的局限性证明它不可能从富人那里撤退,货币可能以同样的安全性花费得更少。它似乎是建立在遵从不断吞噬生命的想象的饥饿之上的,所以一定要用就业来安抚,那些已经拥有一切的人必须膨胀自己的欲望。实用需求满足之后,便是虚荣的渴求,在人类行为的极限力量缩小进而缩小他的愿望之前,将其扩展到最大并将愿望最大化地实现。


That is, even in a world where every need is met, there will still be “a world full of wants.” Keynes wrote of this kind of competition too in “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren”:

“Now it is true that the needs of human beings may seem to be insatiable. But they fall into two classes — those needs which are absolute in the sense that we feel them whatever the situation of our fellow human beings may be, and those which are relative in the sense that we feel them only if their satisfaction lifts us above, makes us feel superior to, our fellows. Needs of the second class, those which satisfy the desire for superiority, may indeed be insatiable; for the higher the general level, the higher still are they. But this is not so true of the absolute needs — a point may soon be reached, much sooner perhaps than we are all of us aware of, when these needs are satisfied in the sense that we prefer to devote our further energies to non-economic purposes.”

那就是,即使在一个所有需求都被满足的世界,仍然会有 “一个充满欲望的世界.” Keynes在 “我们子孙后代的经济可能性”中也写下了这类攀比。

“现在看来,人类的需求似乎永远无法被满足是真的。但它们分为两类 — 这些绝对的需求,无论我们的处境如何,我们都能感受到,以及那些相对的意义上,只有当他们的满足感把我们提升到更高的层次时,我们才感觉到我们比自己周围的同伴更优秀。对于第二种满足优越感的需求,也许是贪得无厌的;层次越高,欲望随之膨胀。但绝对需求并非如此 — 很快能到达的一个点,也许比我们能意识到的还要快,当这些需求得到满足时,我们更愿意把更多的精力投入到非经济目的上。



Given an income sufficient to the necessities of life, some people will choose to step off the wheel — to spend more time with family and friends, in creative pursuits, or whatever they damn well please. But even in a world where the machines do most of the essential work, the competition for additional Creativity Money will drive the economy.

Keynes foresaw both of these possibilities. He wrote:

“The strenuous purposeful money-makers may carry all of us along with them into the lap of economic abundance. But it will be those peoples, who can keep alive, and cultivate into a fuller perfection, the art of life itself and do not sell themselves for the means of life, who will be able to enjoy the abundance when it comes.”

And this is the interesting bit. Creativity can be the focus of an intense competition for status, so that “he who has built for use till use is supplied must begin to build for vanity.” But it can also be the key to a future human economy that would let all enjoy the fruits of leisure that are brought to us by machine productivity.​​​​​​​




有趣的一点是,创意可以是激烈的地位竞争的焦点,所以“那个将之建造出来给人使用的人,一开始就是为了虚荣而建造它的。” 但它也可以成为未来人类经济的关键,让所有人都享受到由机器生产力带给我们的休闲生活的成果。


The good life consists in enjoying the creativity of others, and in sharing our own, not just in having our basic needs met. Much of this, like caring, is a natural outgrowth of a successful human society, not an economic pursuit.

Creativity, and the patronage of creativity, may be a major component of the future economy.

In this regard, I’m fascinated by a comment that Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, made to me over dinner one night: “If you want to understand the future, just look at what rich people do today.” (He’s also made that same comment in writing, on more than one occasion.) It’s easy to think of this as a heartless libertarian comment. Our dinner companion, Hal’s former student Carl Shapiro, fresh from his stint at Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers, seemed horrified. But when you think about it for a moment, it makes a lot of sense.

美好的生活在于享受他人的创造力,并分享我们自己的, 不仅仅是满足我们的基本需求。这一点,就像关怀,是成功的人类社会的自然产物,而不是经济追求的产物。


在这方面,一位谷歌首席经济学家Hal Varian在某天晚餐中对我说的一席话让我着迷: “如果你想了解未来,看看今天富人做些什么.” (他不止一次在写作中发表了同样的意见。)很容易认为这是一个无情的自由主义言论,我们的晚餐伙伴,Hal曾经的学生Carl Shapiro,刚刚在奥巴马白宫经济顾问委员会任职,似乎被这个言论吓坏了。但你考虑一会,它会有很多意义。



Dining out was once the province of the wealthy. Now far more people do it. In our most vibrant cities, a privileged class experiences a taste of a future that could be the future for everyone. Restaurants compete on the basis of creativity and service, “everyone’s private driver” whisks people around in comfort from experience to experience, and one-of-a-kind boutiques provide unique consumer goods. Rich people once took the European Grand Tour; now soccer hooligans do it. Cell phones, designer fashion, entertainment have all been democratized. Mozart had the Holy Roman Emperor as his patron; Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Patreon extend that opportunity to millions of ordinary people.

New industries driven by the human touch are everywhere. In the US, more than 4200 craft breweries now make up more than 10% of the market, and command a price double that of a mass-produced beer. In the first quarter of 2016, 25 million customers purchased hand-crafted and artisan goods on Etsy. These are small green shoots in an economy dominated by mass-produced products, but they teach us something important about the future.

外出就餐曾经专属于富人,现在有更多的人这么做。在我们最有活力的城市里,一个特权阶级品尝未来的体验,将是所有人将来会有的体验。餐厅在创意和服务的基础上竞争,“每个人都有私家车” 搅扰着周围不断从体验中得到安逸舒适的人,而独一无二的精品店提供独特的消费品,富人曾经参加过欧洲豪华游;现在足球流氓也这么做。手机、设计师时尚、娱乐都大众化了,莫扎特有神圣罗马帝国的皇帝为他的赞助人; Kickstarter,GoFundMe以及Patreon让上千万民众都有机会成为他们的赞助商。

人类接触带动的新产业随处可见,目前在美国,超过4200家工艺啤酒商占据了10%以上的市场份额,其价格是批量生产啤酒价格的两倍。在2016年第一季度,2500万顾客在EtSY上购买手工制作和手工艺品。 由大批量生产商品主导的经济有顽强的芽苗出现,另一方面它们教会我们一些关于未来的重要事情。


What is happening in entertainment may be an even more interesting harbinger. While blockbusters still dominate in Hollywood and New York publishing, a larger and larger proportion of people’s entertainment time is spent on social media, consuming content created by their friends and peers. That profound shift in media consumption has most visibly enriched Facebook, Google, and the current generation of media platforms, but it is increasingly turning into a real job for a larger and larger number of individual media creators.

As YouTube star and VidCon impresario Hank Green wrote recently:

“I started paying my bills with YouTube money around the time I hit a million views a month. My content was admittedly low budget and “views” isn’t necessarily the best metric (what it means changes drastically based on platform), but I want you to take a guess at how many YouTube channels now get more than a million views a month? A couple hundred? A thousand?​​​​​​​

娱乐中发生的事情可能是一个更有趣的预兆,当大片在好莱坞和纽约出版界占据统治地位时,越来越多的人将娱乐时间花在社交媒体上,消费内容由他们的朋友和同龄人创造。 媒体消费的深刻转变最明显地让脸谱网、谷歌富裕起来,同时催生了当前的媒体平台,但是它正成为越来越多自媒体创作者的本职工作。

如YouTube明星和 VidCon主办人Hank Green最近写道:

“当我开始用YouTube的报酬支付账单时,我的视频的月浏览量达到了100万。我的视频内容预算不可否认是很低的,所以浏览量未必是最好的衡量标准。(它意味着所在平台带来的巨大改变)但我想让你猜一下,现在有多少个YouTube频道每月有一百万多的浏览量? 几百个? 一千个?


How about 37,000.

For context, Facebook has 12,000 employees….

If “internet creator” were a company, it would be hiring faster than any company in silicon valley.”

Keep in mind that “YouTube Money,” as Hank names it, is only one of many new forms of Creative Money that are available via online platforms. There’s Facebook Money, Etsy Money, Kickstarter Money, App Store money, and more.

Some of these marketplaces are further along than others in creating opportunities for individuals and small companies to convert attention (the raw material of Creativity Money) into cash. The next few years will see an explosion of startups that find new ways to convert more and more of the attention that is spent online into traditional money.



如果 “互联网创造者”是一家公司, 它的扩张速度比硅谷任何公司都要快“。




As Jack Conte, half of the musical duo Pomplamoose and founder and CEO of crowdfunding patronage site Patreon, told me, he founded Patreon after “Nataly and I got 17 million views of our music videos, and it turned into $3,500 in ad revenue. Our fans value us more than that.”

As crowdfunding sites like Patreon (and, of course, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo) show, there are increasingly new opportunities for ordinary people to compete for real currency, not just attention, in the creative economy. These sites are still a relatively small part of the overall economy, but they have a lot to teach us about its possible future direction.

像Jack Conte,音乐组合Pomplamoose 的其中之一,也是众筹赞助网站Patreon的创始人兼CEO,告诉我说,”Nataly和我的音乐视频获得1700万浏览量并转化为3500美元的收入,我们的粉丝认为我们不只值这些。“而后他创立了Patreon。

从像Patreon这样的众筹网站(当然还有Kickstarter和Indiegogo)可以看出,对普通人来说,在创意经济里,有越来越多争夺真实货币(real currency)的新机会,而不仅仅只是关注。这些网站仍然是整体经济中的一个相对较小的一部分,但从中我们可以得到很多关于未来经济某种可能走向的启示。