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A Guide to Circles, the Project Bringing UBI and FOMO to Ethereum’s xDai Sidechain

A Guide to Circles, the Project Bringing UBI and FOMO to Ethereum’s xDai Sidechain

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Free money always makes the crypto world go mad, even if people don’t know what the new cryptocurrency will be worth or what it’s good for.

The case is being proven out again with Circles, a blockchain-based universal basic income (UBI) project that launched Oct. 16 on Ethereum’s xDai sidechain.

Founded by Martin Köppelmann of Gnosis and run by a very small, Berlin-based team, Circles promises to give users 240 of its CRC cryptocurrency each month, but it puts up one hurdle to get started: The user needs to find three people who are already inside and convince them to form a “trust” line from their Circles wallet to that of Circles’ aspirants.

It’s a way of creating a parallel economy. 

For anyone decently networked in crypto, especially within Ethereum, this seems quite easy. The truth is, however, Circles has been very slow and buggy so far.

“We are quite busy,” Blanka Vay of the Circles team told CoinDesk when reached by email. “Our servers are down because of the huge interest.”

As a post from the official account in the Circles Telegram channel put it Wednesday:

“We’re facing heavy infrastructure problems with a naive server setup and 70 million requests per 24 hours. … We’re working hard on improving it so the app runs more stable.” 

Traffic jam

Andrew Gross, of the POA Network, which runs xDai, said the Circles launch has led to one of the biggest transaction surges the network has ever seen.

To be fair, Circles and cryptic space game Dark Forest are running neck and neck for driving the biggest transaction spikes on xDai, though Gross noted the sidechain is still running well below capacity. The bugginess seems to be more with Circles’ APIs.

Circles functions from the ground up differently than other cryptocurrency projects. Its white paper describes how funds move through the network in a social fashion rather than a technological one. Circles is a true social network for value.

Somewhat like the Lightning Network, value moves through Circles via trust lines. This is important. Circles is meant more to inculcate communities of cooperation, not to transfer billions of dollars around the globe, like Bitcoin can. 

Members of the Circles development team have told CoinDesk they are working to scale up and switch to infrastructure that can better handle this unanticipated growth. This has been frustrating for new users, but you can think of your frustration as similar to the computational energy required to mine fresh bitcoin.

Perhaps it’s good that an endless faucet of free crypto has some pretty significant friction to get started. The friction only requires patience, not funds, so it’s not financially exclusionary, even if the initial set of trusted parties represent a privileged class. It’s spreading fast, so every day it should be easier to join – technical glitches aside.

Pro tips

But for those struggling to get in, I’ve learned a few things about how Circles works over the 24-hour period I spent trying to get on. Hopefully, this will help others:

Just keep trying. There’s been a lot of talk in my Slack channels and with folks I know on WhatsApp about spinny wheels of death. It seems like the spinny circles on Circles don’t mean much. Try to join, give it a minute and then try again. Try again every few hours. Also, dropping ad blockers seemed to help.

Reformat your seed phrase when saving it. Definitely save your seed phrase, because it lets you log in through other browsers, but reformat it so it’s a sentence. When I copied and pasted my words they pasted as a list. To log in again, you want them in a sentence format, separated by spaces.

Reloading your wallet can help. In cases where verifications aren’t showing up or transactions aren’t working, rebooting wallets can help. Before my account became verified, the only way I could find to do this was by clearing the history on my browser. Once an account is verified, though, click on the hamburger menu, go to settings and click the scary red “End Session” button. Note: Do not click it if your seed phrase hasn’t been backed up. 

Circles is weird about emails. If you get a spinny wheel at the account-creation stage where it asks for an email, search your screen. It might be saying it doesn’t like your email. Two of mine were rejected and it only liked my shady email from an obscure German company that I only use to hide from Mark Zuckerberg. It rejected my long-standing, well-established Gmail address. I have no clue why.

Find real people who actually know you. This could be hard for some crypto n00bs but just try to work your network and find folks you have encountered for real or make new online friends. Think of this as your little bit of “social mining.” You can just shamelessly beg randos on Twitter but you’re not building social capital that way. If it takes a little longer making it real, so be it. We each have the personal network we have earned. 

Verifications take forever to register. Circles showed me at two verifications for hours when I knew I had three (others have taken even longer). Then, when I got in, I didn’t have verifications from anyone who had actually told me they were going to do it. I had them from people I’d asked who hadn’t directly responded. I think this is because people thought they had verified my account but the push didn’t make it through. So it goes. 

Verifying others isn’t any better. So if you get to the point where you can verify others, just do one person at a time. I got a spinny wheel and then the home screen popped up and a message briefly appeared saying I had verified them. I think I have verified people several times but it’s really hard to say. The early days of new cryptocurrencies are very exciting.

Return the trust. If someone trusts you, you need to trust them back (so long as you do). Right now it doesn’t show the name of users half the time so this can be tedious, but once that gets easier look at all the people who have trusted you, click on their profiles and return the favor. It’s like Twitter: double opt-in for real connection.

Just use one machine as you start. I’ve been bouncing between two laptops and my mobile. Circles does not seem to like that, and that makes sense with the system under strain. So pick where you want to get started and just stick with that until Circles manages to scale up.

If anyone manages to send CRC, let me know. For my first couple days in I was not able to give away any of my funds, even among the mutually trusted. Whether CRC proves to have real-world usefulness is up to everyone who does manage to get the faucets turned on. 

Hopefully, these tips should help those people determined to get in to get in faster. Just don’t expect a small Web 3 project to work at Web 2 speed. 

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October 22, 2020 at 01:27PM

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UBI Network Reading List

San Francisco Starts Universal Basic Income For Artists – San Francisco – San Francisco News

San Francisco Starts Universal Basic Income For Artists – San Francisco – San Francisco News

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SAN FRANCISCO—San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a plan for economic recovery, including a basic income program for artists, expanding the Shared Spaces program, support for business’ reopening, at San Francisco Economic Recovery Task Force (ERTF)’s final meeting on October 8.

Mayor Breed received a report including 41 plans for economic recovery from ERTF. In April, Mayor Breed and Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee gathered over 100 leaders for the ERTF, whose fields range from business and non-profit to labor and education. The ERTF is led by Assessor Carmen Chu, Treasurer José Cisneros, President of the Chamber of Commerce Rodney Fong, and Executive Director of the Labor Council Rudy Gonzalez.

In response to the report, Mayor Breed announced the City’s plan of “moving forward on creating a plan to make elements of the Shared Spaces program permanent, providing direct funding support to businesses, creating a pilot basic income program for artists, supporting cultural districts, delaying impact fees, and waiving certain taxes and fees for businesses that remain closed.”

For Basic Income Pilot for Artists, San Francisco will provide up to 130 artists, teaching artists, arts organizations, and cultural workers with $1,000 a month for at least six months, taking $6 million from its budget. The Arts Commission will also provide funds to reopen art organizations and to make an online Arts Hub.

The Arts Commission will open four other programs the week of October 11, including the $265,000 fund for artists to paint murals with a public health theme on stores and to deploy performance artists to promote COVID-safe behaviors on the streets.

Cheryl Keating, a law researcher who has studied UBI proposals and programs in the United States and Canada, said that artists should suddenly know what amount of minimum salary they will get per a month, in addition to what else they make, according to the California Globe. He is one of the many people against the program. He added “landlords in wealthier areas find out that a tenant has UBI and proceeds to charge them more because they can now afford such a bump in rent.”

Keating explained that when Denver and Seattle introduced UBI programs in the 60’s and 70’s, people worked less and also divorce rate went up. Some people also pose a question about the necessity of economic recovery programs in the midst of a statewide shutdown.

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October 11, 2020 at 04:38PM

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Mark Cuban calls for $1,000 stimulus checks every two weeks through November – KABC-TV

Mark Cuban calls for $1,000 stimulus checks every two weeks through November – KABC-TV

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Mark Cuban calls for $1,000 stimulus checks every two weeks through November  KABC-TV

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September 25, 2020 at 12:57PM

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These Mayors Say This Is Universal Basic Income’s Moment – Next City

These Mayors Say This Is Universal Basic Income’s Moment – Next City

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For a growing cadre of mayors across the country, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed more than just the stubborn racial inequity built into the U.S. economy. It has also exposed what’s possible in a modern-day economy — universal basic income.

“We don’t have a funding problem, we have a priorities problem,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter, in a press briefing last week. “This is a concept, frankly, that is far more controversial in halls of government than on any street in America.”

The press briefing, organized by Mayors for a Guaranteed Income, featured more than a dozen other mayors from across the country. The coalition started with 11 members in June 2020, and at the briefing, the coalition announced 14 new members. These mayors have all committed to funding or exploring basic income pilots in their cities — as a hopeful first step towards a federal universal basic income program.

Proposed in various forms for decades — including by Martin Luther King Jr. — and recently popularized by presidential candidate Andrew Yang (who called it a “Freedom Dividend”), universal basic income is exactly what it sounds like: direct cash assistance for everyone.

A recent poll by The Hill found a majority of voters now in support of a universal basic income, up 12 percentage points from just one year earlier.

But the mayors on the press briefing universally recognized the uphill battle they face convincing policymakers in Washington D.C. that universal basic income is the way to go. They see a need to fight back against the old racist tropes like “welfare queens” spending government money on junk food and drugs, stereotypes created to justify severe cuts to social safety net programs in the past. And of course there are persistent questions about how to pay for a nationwide, universal basic income program.

“Guaranteed income has to be a federal solution,” said Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs. “But we understand Washington can’t move as fast. We need to give folks in D.C. the stories and the cover to do this.”

Guaranteed income or universal basic income has its critics, who worry it will reduce the incentive to work or that it costs too much. But it has had an unusually broad mix of supporters.

Martin Luther King Jr. supported it as part of the civil rights vision for economic justice.

Conservative economist Milton Friedman supported basic income as a more efficient social safety net than the raft of programs introduced by the time of President Lyndon B. Johnson and his Great Society agenda. His idea to implement it through a tax credit seeded the idea for what is now the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Silicon Valley moguls and investors support basic income for different reasons, including as a social safety net solution in response to increased automation. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes is one of the forces behind the Economic Security Project, which prominently partnered with Stockton Mayor Michael Stubbs to run a basic income two-year pilot program that started in 2018.

With the end of Stockton’s pilot approaching, Mayor Tubbs and Economic Security Project expanded on their partnership to launch Mayors for a Guaranteed Income in June.

The other mayors on the briefing last week were at various stages of basic income pilot programs in their cities.

Some are funded entirely with private philanthropic dollars, like the HudsonUP program in Hudson, New York. The Hudson program is providing $500 each month for 5 years to just 25 recipients living within city limits and earning up to the median income for Hudson, $35,153. Chosen at random, participants may be single or married, with children or not. The lottery is weighted by equity and overseen by independent researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Tennessee Knoxville.

“We want to demonstrate the power of basic income,” said Hudson Mayor Kamal Johnson. “I believe in investing in human initiatives, not entities.”

Others, like St. Paul, are combining public dollars with private dollars. Mayor Carter described his city’s plan to provide 150 families with $500 for eighteen months. Applicants for the program must demonstrate an impact from COVID-19 in terms of reduced work hours, inability to find affordable child care or illness. The recipients will be chosen from within four of St. Paul’s most diverse and lowest income ZIP codes. The $1.5 million program will be mainly funded from private philanthropy, with $300,000 coming from the city’s allocation of CARES Act funding.

When pressed, Mayor Tubbs reiterated that the group’s collective end vision is for universal basic income, federally funded. The idea with the smaller pilots is to generate quantitative and qualitative data to convince federal policymakers, especially those who still believe in the racist stereotype of the “welfare queen” that emerged in the 1970s and 1980s.

“We’re disproving all of the racist tropes that say if you give low-income people money they’ll do XYZ with it,” said Mayor Carter.

The group also sees a wide range of knock-on effects to their communities. Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard of Mount Vernon, New York, touted the boost for small businesses in her community that would come from universal basic income. “When you give money to big businesses, they invest in offshore accounts,” said Mayor Patterson-Howard. “When you give money to people, they’re going to spend it in their community.”

Mayor Patterson-Howard is one of the new additions to the group. She was only able to verbally commit to a public and privately funded basic-income pilot program.

On the question of how to fund a universal basic income program, the COVID-19 pandemic has emboldened the group. There’s the evidence that the initial round of $1,200 economic impact payments helped keep 10 million families from falling into poverty. But even more emboldening, has been the massive amount of aid and low-interest lending that the federal government has made available to large corporations in the wake of the pandemic.

“These people are printing money, so the idea is the money is there, but the will is not there,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “They’re finding money somewhere, giving it out, and arguing about who gets it. We’re saying this is where it needs to go, and we want them to understand it needs to be in perpetuity, not just a one off thing.”

Oscar is Next City’s senior economics correspondent. He previously served as Next City’s editor from 2018-2019, and was a Next City Equitable Cities Fellow from 2015-2016. Since 2011, Oscar has covered community development finance, community banking, impact investing, economic development, housing and more for media outlets such as Shelterforce, B Magazine, Impact Alpha, and Fast Company.

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September 24, 2020 at 04:55AM

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UBI Network Reading List

What is basic income? Does basic income work? Can we afford it? Your questions, answered – Toronto Star

What is basic income? Does basic income work? Can we afford it? Your questions, answered – Toronto Star

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What is basic income? Does basic income work? Can we afford it? Your questions, answered  Toronto Star

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September 23, 2020 at 07:46PM

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FATAH: It’s not just ‘leftists’ who support a basic income – Toronto Sun

FATAH: It’s not just ‘leftists’ who support a basic income – Toronto Sun

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Article content continued

3. The United Church of Canada believes, “A [basic income] program would help provide an adequate living level for everyone and address the persistent inequities within our country.”

4. Pope Francis, who wrote after the coronavirus pandemic, “This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage … that would ensure and concretely achieve the ideal, at once so human and so Christian, of no worker without rights.”

5. The Anglican Church of Canada. In May, 41 bishops of the Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “We recommend [a basic income], not just as an astute financial policy, but also because it marks our identity as a country who cares for one another.”

Some middle-class Canadians seem traumatized at the thought, that their working-class low-income fellow citizens would get “free money.” But the same people who feign concern over Canada’s deficits, seem to have no problem with Canadian billionaires making a killing while COVID-19 was killing people.

During an economic crisis that has left millions of Canadians out of a job, Canada’s top 20 billionaires collectively have become $37 billion richer.

We all need to pay attention to a report from the Parliamentary Budget Officer this year that found the top 1% of wealthy Canadians account for more than a quarter of the country’s wealth, while the bottom 40% account for a measly 1%.

It is that bottom 40% that seems most hostile to the basic income idea along with the ideological ultra-right, who massage the egos of the working class to fight against its own interests.

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September 23, 2020 at 07:46PM