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The Phrase That Unites Us "Do your own research" - Don't Be Conspiracy 'Sheeple' Either (Understanding Universal Basic Income)

Girl with laptop at desk surrounded by books writing in notepad. Photo by George Milton from Pexels
Photo by George Milton from Pexels

The world is a complex enough place without spreading speculation and opinion as facts, as well as information that is just flat out incorrect as truth. Regardless on where you fall when it comes to world wide conspiracies, the one phrase we can all agree on is "Do your own research".

That said, researching is exhausting. The research I did for this post (which stretched out to three days for an article I thought would take an afternoon to write) was nearly enough for me to say this is all too hard when I could more easily bang out another movie review piece in less than an hour. 

Social Media is Not Research

Alternatively, why do any research when social media will bombard you with stuff that affirms all your interests and view points from reputable sources right?

Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, excel at feeding you information that their algorithm's think you 'may also like'. If you click on even one conspiracy video, article, or image, almost right away the algorithm will begin feeding you more of that type of content.

If you want to see that in action. Find a topic that you would never usually be interested in, search for information about it on your preferred social media platform, then see how fast your suggested media/articles/videos start to become saturated with that topic the more you follow it down the rabbit hole.

Social media is so good at this, you rarely get users denouncing it as 'thought control' by 'big tech'. Yet, every day, I have to tear myself away from Facebook because I enjoy mindlessly scrolling through things that interest me too much to uninstall or block the platform completely from my life.

Sharing content is a big part of social media. Sharing helps the algorithm determine what is most likely to interest you. The more something is shared among people with your interests, the more likely you will find that information interesting too. This is great until misinformation gains traction.

Misinformation Sometimes Just Evolves

Misinformation is not necessarily a direct attempt to deceive you with things that aren't true. In fact your source may genuinely believe that article they're sharing is true and factual - particularly if they're the author (like this article you're reading right now - though I'm not claiming this article is all facts. It's very much an opinion piece).

Often when stories are shared, particularly if they are re-communicated through a new retelling of the original information, context can be lost. Things that were initially opinion or speculation are reinterpreted as facts - not unlike a very complex game of Chinese Whispers where the original phrase is very different to the final interpretation.

Demonizing Universal Basic Income

To illustrate this, watch the video below, The Case Against Universal Basic Income (UBI), by Sorelle Amore of the Youtube channel Sorelle Amore Finance. Sorelle points out at the beginning of the video, on the surface UBI is something the majority of people would say 'Yes' to (free regular payments every month, no strings attached - you'd say 'Yes' right?). Watch how she demonizes the idea from a 'credible' source by a contributor to an organization she clearly doesn't trust, The World Economic Forum (WEF) a not for profit, global organization.

To preface my thoughts on this video, I subscribed to Sorelle's Youtube channel not long after she first started it and have watched every video. I'm still a subscriber and I receive her 'raved about' newsletter written by her partner, Leon.

I think Sorelle always presents interesting ideas that come across as being well researched, extremely considered and thoughtful. For the most part I think her videos achieve their intention of encouraging people to think more deeply about the world, the people in powerful positions, and things that may or may not be happening in plain sight.

However, the more I watch (and read their newsletters) the more I get the impression that Sorelle and her partner Leon are more sophisticated doomsday preppers with a mild dose of conspiracy theorist thrown in. They're both very anti-government and anti-corporation. Which is not to discount them as 'crazies' but to say they do have an agenda that isn't exactly impartial.

Start with a Bond Villain

Sorelle's video introduces UBI, and then follows the backstory of how we're getting to the point where a guaranteed basic income may be necessary due to robots and job automation.

Within that backstory Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, is introduced as someone Sorelle would most likely nominate as a real life Bond villain with no context for why? Sure it's the WEF suggesting a 4th Industrial revolution is imminent, with machines replacing much of the workforce and even making decisions for us, but that isn't something the WEF is solely responsible for creating or crafting.

Some of its partners are working on the technology for this kind of change but if you're crediting the WEF with this master plan then you need to credit them with the invention of the internet, smart phones, Social media, GPS satellites, driverless cars, robots etc. etc. Anything and everything that leads to 'automation' and 'globalization'.

Who Are the Authors of Your Data?

If you want to be spooked by a global company may I nominate McKinsey & Company, a private global management consulting firm, founded in 1926 (predating the WEF who were founded in 1971), and trusted advisor to businesses, governments, and institutions. Some consider them to be the most prestigious of the big three management firms in the world... I only nominate them because many of their Alumni go on to work in global businesses, governments, and institutions. (I'm just sayin' there's opportunities there for easier collusion in shaping the future by a private company.  An assertation based on no evidence or research).

I mention McKinsey & Co because their company name shows prominently in Sorelle's video where she's quoting statistics for projected job losses by 2030. I wondered who they were? Interestingly all their research data is available to you completely free in the McKinsey Global Institute.

Add Conspiracy Theorist's Rogues Gallery

Getting back on track. Evil Bond villain aside Sorelle's explanation of UBI, who supports it, and acknowledgement of trials that have been done, is all great and relatively well balanced (though I notice her named supporters of UBI are all polarizing leaders conspiracy theorists love to call out as 'shady' - to put it nicely).

Insert Credible Source Here

Where everything goes off the rails is when Sorelle pulls one quote from a 2016 Forbes article, Welcome To 2030: I Own Nothing, Have No Privacy And Life Has Never Been Better, by Ida Auken, a contributor to the WEF.

The article is pure speculation based on current trends and research observed by Ida, and is a response to a question by the WEF who asked contributors to the forum to describe what the world might look like in 2030. Essentially it's the same as futurist artist, Syd Mead, designing what 2020 might look like for the 1982 movie Blade Runner (look how right he got it).

Despite this Sorelle describes Forbes as a 'credible source', and I don't disagree, but the article quoted is opinion and speculation, not facts, by a contributor to the WEF who is a member of one of their Global Future Councils. What's more, none of the article is the opinion of the WEF yet conspiracy theorists often present it as such. Read this Reuters Fact Check: The World Economic Forum does not have a stated goal to have people own nothing by 2030.

Is That Really 'The Future' or Just an Average Day in the Present?

Even worse the quote (below), which sound ominous, but isn't really in the context of the modern world (public security cameras, QR code check ins, Phone GPS, Credit Card tracking, posting your lunch on Instagram etc, etc), Sorelle ramps up the hyperbole by using words like 'terrifies'...
Once in a while I get annoyed about the fact that I have no real privacy. Nowhere I can go and not be registered. I know that, somewhere, everything I do, think and dream of is recorded. I just hope that nobody will use it against me.
From this statement Sorelle extrapolates an almost unprecedented level of government control that could see the UBI being used as leverage for all sorts of nefarious reasons like who you vote for, what food you can eat, what things you buy, who you can associate with, and even what you can say.

Almost unprecedented because Sorelle points out some real world examples where governments have tried to influence its citizens buying power and control what they can do and say (like this is something new - World War II anyone? Russia virtually every time they've claimed the Ukraine as their own territory since 1654 - probably? Let's get some thoughts from the citizens of North Korea... no?).

A little disingenuously Sorelle finishes by mentioning something along the lines of small sustainable communities as a possible alternative to UBI. Which may be one way to go, but she doesn't reference this solution was also mentioned in the same article she pulled her 'terrifying' quote from.

Does the Author Have an Agenda?

Sorelle and her partner Leon do have something of an agenda, selling their course to help you learn how to be financially independent and less subservient to individual government ideology. Many of their videos and newsletters push the anti-government, anti-super-rich narrative with 'fear' (or at least negative) language.

As someone who consumes their content, much of it, in my opinion, is very reasonable, sound advice, with plenty of credibility, based on their own experience of living what they preach.

The problem is, if you don't do your own research (or at the very least read the Forbes article), your takeaway from Sorelle's video is likely to be that the WEF is 'evil' and UBI is the dawn of thought control by governments (to be honest we're way past dawn on thought control in some countries right now).

Opinion Becomes Fact

If that's your take. The next time you're in a discussion that mentions the WEF or UBI there's a high chance you're going to be very negative toward both even though all you know about either is what you saw in Sorelle's video and maybe others on social media that have fallen into your newsfeed by people who watched Sorelle's video as if it's all factual.

Do Your Own Research

Regardless, even Sorelle would agree that you should 'Do your own research'. Follow where people are getting their information from, and follow up on the source of that information. Try to be objective and draw your own conclusions. Make sure you're not just seeking out information that confirms what you suspect or believe. 

Particularly look at opposing viewpoints. Where are they coming from and what information sources are they using. Research is actually a lot more interesting when you're trying to decipher how someone could possibly reach an opposing viewpoint because it opens up ideas you may not have considered.

Universal Basic Income the Case For and Against

To finish up, if you've found the idea of UBI compelling but would like a less Orwellian take on the topic, I'd like to recommend the video, Universal Basic Income (UBI) - Life After Automation by Dagogo Altraide (also an Australian like Sorelle) of the Youtube channel, ColdFusion.

Dagogo tends to look at multiple sides of any issue he researches and, while this video is a few years old now, the sources that are referenced are of about the same vintage as Sorelle's Forbes article. That said, he doesn't cover every angle either. The issue of government using UBI as leverage is not something he mentions at all.

Do I Have an Agenda?

Absolutely yes I do. I want to make sure I never have to live in a small, self-sustaining community (that to me sounds like a dystopian future where humans lost). Seriously though. I just want people to do objective research before they share all their conspiracy theory articles all over social media faster than they could possibly double check the content. Conspiracy theorists aren't immune to being 'sheeple' either.

Even more importantly I want to people to understand the difference between opinions, facts, and independent reporting. Here's a hint, Independence Australia isn't Independent reporting. Just like mainstream media, it has a biased agenda. More 'terrifying' is I could be a contributor based on their submission guidelines - which should be a red flag right there.

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