Support for universal basic income on the rise. Until we have to discuss how to fund it

A new survey has revealed that almost half of all adults aged 18 to 75 in the UK would support the government if it were to introduce a universal basic income (UBI).

The survey, commissioned by the IPR from Ipsos-MORI, revealed that 49% of adults aged 18 to 75 expressed support for the UK Government introducing UBI to cover basic needs, while only 26% opposed its introduction.

“The data should generate interesting analysis on the political feasibility of introducing basic income in the UK – in particular, about potential constituencies of support, and the forms of basic income that appeal to different demographics – important issues about which we currently know very little,” said the study’s author Dr Luke Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Thomas

Although the notion of introducing a UBI has been gaining ground internationally and in the UK, the study revealed a major stumbling block arises once discussion moves away from the general principles of UBI to concrete proposals about how to fund such a system.

When individuals were asked to consider UBI funded through increased taxation, support dropped to 30%, with 40% opposed, and when participants were asked to consider UBI funded through cuts in welfare benefits spending, support dropped to 37%, with 30% opposed.

In an accompanying policy brief, the IPR makes the point that a UBI paid at £73.10 a week for working age adults that replaced existing benefits would cost an additional £143 billion over existing social security expenditure and require large increases in income tax revenue, which could increase working age poverty by approximately 7%.

Under this scenario, 42% of households would see their disposable income fall.

“These new data show quite surprising levels of support for basic income in the UK, although this falls when asked to consider UBI’s fiscal implications,” said Martinelli.

Image courtesy of Mohammad Tajer. Featured image courtesy of Neil Cowburn

The IPR’s analysis underlines the difficulty in introducing a UBI that meets individuals’ needs, is fiscally viable and reduces the negative effects of means testing.

As such the Policy Brief suggests that UBI advocates should be more realistic and less ambitious. The IPR suggests trialing more modest schemes, such as those limited to particular demographic groups.

However, regardless of whether they support or oppose UBI, 34% of survey participants would like UBI to be funded by increasing taxes on wealth, while 28% would prefer to fund it by cutting existing welfare benefits.

Robot takes first steps towards building artificial lifeforms

A robot equipped with sophisticated AI has successfully simulated the creation of artificial lifeforms, in a key first step towards the eventual goal of creating true artificial life.

The robot, which was developed by scientists at the University of Glasgow, was able to model the creation of artificial lifeforms using unstable oil-in-water droplets. These droplets effectively played the role of living cells, demonstrating the potential of future research to develop living cells based on building blocks that cannot be found in nature.

Significantly, the robot also successfully predicted their properties before they were created, even though this could not be achieved using conventional physical models.

The robot, which was designed by Glasgow University’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, Professor Lee Cronin, is driven by machine learning and the principles of evolution.

It has been developed to autonomously create oil-in-water droplets with a host of different chemical makeups and then use image recognition to assess their behaviour.

Using this information, the robot was able to engineer droplets to have different properties­. Those which were found to be desirable could then be recreated at any time, using a specific digital code.

“This work is exciting as it shows that we are able to use machine learning and a novel robotic platform to understand the system in ways that cannot be done using conventional laboratory methods, including the discovery of ‘swarm’ like group behaviour of the droplets, akin to flocking birds,” said Cronin.

“Achieving lifelike behaviours such as this are important in our mission to make new lifeforms, and these droplets may be considered ‘protocells’ – simplified models of living cells.”

One of the oil droplets created by the robot

The research, which is published today in the journal PNAS, is one of several research projects being undertaken by Cronin and his team within the field of artificial lifeforms.

While the overarching goal is moving towards the creation of lifeforms using new and unprecedented building blocks, the research may also have more immediate potential applications.

The team believes that their work could also have applications in several practical areas, including the development of new methods for drug delivery or even innovative materials with functional properties.

Mac spyware stole millions of user images

A criminal case brought against a man from Ohio, US has shed more light on a piece of Mac malware, dubbed Fruitfly, that was used to surreptitiously turn on cameras and microphones, take and download screenshots, log keystrokes, and steal tax and medical records, photographs, internet searches, and bank transactions from users.

Source: Ars Technica

Drone swarm attack strikes Russian military bases

Russia's Ministry of Defence claims its forces in Syria were attacked a week ago by a swarm of home-made drones. According to Russia's MoD Russian forces at the Khmeimim air base and Tartus naval facility "successfully warded off a terrorist attack with massive application of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)"

Source: Science Alert

Las Vegas strip club employs robot strippers

A Las Vegas strip club has flown in robot strippers from London to 'perform' at the club during CES. Sapphire Las Vegas strip club managing partner Peter Feinstein said that he employed the robots because the demographics of CES have changed and the traditional female strippers aren’t enough to lure a crowd to the club anymore.

Source: Daily Beast

GM to make driverless cars without steering wheels or pedals by 2019

General Motors has announced it plans to mass-produce self-driving cars without traditional controls like steering wheels and pedals by 2019. “It’s a pretty exciting moment in the history of the path to wide scale [autonomous vehicle] deployment and having the first production car with no driver controls,” GM President Dan Ammann told The Verge.

Source: The Verge

Russia-linked hackers "Fancy Bears" target the IOC

Following Russia's ban from the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics, the Russia-linked hacking group "Fancy Bears" has published a set of apparently stolen emails, which purportedly belong to officials from the International Olympic Committee, the United States Olympic Committee, and third-party groups associated with the organisations.

Source: Wired

Scientists discover ice cliffs on Mars

Using images provided by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, scientists have described how steep cliffs, up to 100 meters tall, made of what appears to be nearly pure ice indicate that large deposits of ice may also be located in nearby underground deposits. The discovery has been described as “very exciting” for potential human bases.

Source: Science Mag