That’s the question Y Combinator wants to answer.
The Silicon Valley organization, known for its elite accelerator program, said that it’s looking to fund a study on basic income.
The idea is to cover the costs of basic necessities — like food and rent — and then see what people do with that financial freedom.
Will people sit around all day watching Netflix and playing video games — or will they start businesses? Will they be happy?
Y Combinator launched a nonprofit research hub in October, and the study is part of its new research efforts.
On Wednesday, Y Combinator’s Sam Altman put out a call to hire a full-time researcher for the project, which will run for five years.
What does basic income mean in terms of a dollar figure? Altman told CNNMoney that he does not yet have a “specific number in mind.”
“One of the ideas is to try different amounts,” he said. “There’s such a wide range of what [basic income is] that people have thrown out there. It will be open to the researcher.”
Altman said the researcher will help decide key factors like how to find participants, whether it will take place in one geographic area or across the country, and whether the subjects will be individuals or include families.
Altman isn’t sure how many study participants there will be, but said it will “probably be something in the double digits.”
He said they’d look to select people at random — as well as those from “poor backgrounds” who are driven and creative.
“They’ll have total freedom to do whatever they want,” he said. “They have basic income, so if they stop liking their job, they wouldn’t have to keep going to work. They wouldn’t be working because they had to pay rent. What do people do once they have that freedom?”
Countries like Finland are considering paying citizens $10,000 per year to replace other state benefits, which are costly and riddled with bureaucracy.
The goal of YC’s research is to come out with a data-based understanding of how a basic income would work in the U.S.
Altman said he’s “fairly confident” that the U.S. will adopt some version of a basic income in the future as technology continues to eliminate jobs and new wealth is created.
Altman and YC Research backed its first big project, Open.AI in December. He said there will be a “couple” more smaller projects, like this basic income one, that will launch this year.